Saturday, September 26, 2009
As many of you are aware, Autism Speaks sunk to a new low yesterday - even for them! The "I am Autism" campaign repeats the same tired old lies as the NYU Child Study Center's Ransom Notes ads, which our community successfully stopped in 2007, and goes even further, presenting Autistic people as useless burdens on society, on our families and on the world at large. “I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams….And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain,” says the video campaign. Full text is available here.
As we did in response to the "Ransom Notes" ads, we are preparing a joint letter from the disability community in response to these horrific statements, which we hope to have available early next week. If you are connected to an organization that might be interested in signing on to such a letter, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
In addition, we are encouraging people to act immediately by joining ASAN in writing singer Bruce Springsteen, scheduled to participate in an Autism Speaks fundraiser in November, to end his newfound association with this organization that devalues our lives and speaks about us without us. You can contact Springsteen's publicist at email@example.com or by phone at 718-552-7171.
Finally, as we mentioned in our initial press release this morning, ASAN Activists and allies are preparing to confront Autism Speaks fundraising in their own communities. If you would be willing to organize a protest in your community, whether you are a self advocate, family member or other ally, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There has never been a more important time for our community to assert our voice.
Thank you and, as always, Nothing About Us, Without Us!
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Autistic Community Condemns Autism Speaks’ “I am Autism” Campaign
“We are the true voices of Autism,” say Autistic adults; Campaign spreads stigma, prejudice and inaccurate information; ASAN vows protest of upcoming Autism Speaks fundraisers
Washington, DC (September 23rd, 2009) - The autism community reacted in horror today to Autism Speaks’ new “I am Autism” campaign, presenting Autistic people as kidnap victims and burdens on their family members and communities.
“I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams….And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain,” says the “I am Autism” video, released yesterday and created by Academy Award-nominated director Alfonso Cuarón and Grammy-nominated songwriter/producer Billy Mann.
“This is the latest in a series of unethical fundraising strategies adopted by Autism Speaks,” said Ari Ne’eman, an adult on the autism spectrum and President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), “This type of fear mongering hurts Autistic people, by raising fear and not contributing in the slightest to accurate understanding of the needs of Autistic adults and children.”
ASAN’s Columbus, Ohio chapter has already made arrangements to protest Autism Speaks’ upcoming local fundraising walk and other ASAN chapters will be making similar arrangements shortly, said Ne’eman.
In addition to relying on fear and pity mongering to raise funds, the Autism Speaks video repeats frequently referenced claims of higher than average divorce rates amongst parents of Autistic children. However, a 2008 study conducted by HarrisInteractive for Easter Seals in cooperation with the Autism Society of America found divorce rates for parents of Autistic children lower than those for families with no children with disabilities. The video also relies heavily on the idea of rapidly increasing autism rates. Another new study, released the same day as the video, by the British Government’s National Health Service found that autism rates among adults are the same as amongst children, indicating that the popular “epidemic” claim of rapidly increasing autism incidence is likely false.
“This video doesn’t represent me or my child,” said Dana Commandatore, a parent of an Autistic child living in Los Angeles, California. “Whatever the challenges that autism may bring, my son deserves better than being presented as a burden on society. Autism Speaks’ misrepresentation makes my life and the life of my child more difficult.”
“Autism Speaks seems to think that parents' embarrassment at their kids' meltdowns is more important than autistic kids' pain,” writes Sarah, an Autistic blogger at the blog Cat in a Dog’s World, “Autistic people deserve better than what Autism Speaks has to offer.”
The new video is reminiscent of the December 2007 NYU Child Study Center “Ransom Notes” campaign, which consisted of faux ransom notes claiming to be from an anthropomorphized disability which had kidnapped a child. Those ads were withdrawn after two and a half weeks, due to widespread outcry from self-advocates, parents and professionals and the condemnation of twenty-two national disability rights organizations, led by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. The Ransom Notes controversy was reported on by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Good Morning America, The Washington Post and other major media outlets.
ASAN announced plans to work with the cross-disability community on a similar response to Autism Speaks’ campaign. “The voices of real autistic people, and of families who do not subscribe to the presentation of their family members as something sinister and criminal, clearly do not matter to Autism Speaks,” said Paula Durbin-Westby, an adult on the autism spectrum in Virginia, who serves on the board of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “Our community is furious about Autism Speaks’ continued exploitation and will be taking action.”
Selected initial responses to Autism Speaks’ “I am Autism” campaign from bloggers in the Autism community follow:
Club 166 (Parent): http://club166.blogspot.com/2009/09/when-will-they-listen.html “The above video takes up where the Ransom Campaign ended, and goes on from there. Not content just to dehumanize autistic individuals, the Autism Speaks video goes on to paint a picture of horror using the most vivid imagery it can find-your marriage will fail, you will go broke, you will never be able to function in society at all, etc… Two years ago the NYU Child Study Center claimed ignorance of the way that autistic (and other disabled individuals) felt. The response at that time was heard throughout the country, even in major national media. I wonder what excuse Autism Speaks can possibly come up with this time.”
Turner and Kowalski (self-advocate): http://turnerandkowalski.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/i-am-autism-speaks/ “I am Autism SpeaksI will steal your voice and make sure you can never speak for yourself.I will steal your parents’ money and spend it on a residence on Park Avenue.I will use demeaning language to degrade, pity and marginalize you.I have declared war on you.”
http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com/2009/09/what-if-someone-did-this-with-say-downs.html “This is horrific. I cannot believe that these people thought it was OK to demonize a developmental disorder in this way, behaving as though autism were something separate from the people who have it, like a wart or a blight or a boil that should be burned off or lanced and drained before it infects someone else or destroys your marriage, rather than what it really is, a differential neural construct that is just as much a part of the people who have it as their eye color. Is there any other developmental difference or genetic disorder that could be vilified in this way with an assumption of impunity? Dyslexia? Schizophrenia? Tourette's? Depression? Chromosomal disorders? Doubt it.”
Sarah (Self-advocate): http://autisticcats.blogspot.com/2009/09/i-am-autism-embarrassment-trope.html “Autism Speaks seems to think that parents' embarrassment at their kids' meltdowns is more important than autistic kids' pain. They're wrong in that, and they're also wrong to suggest that donating money to Autism Speaks and trying to find a "cure" is the only way to solve this problem. Because while Autism Speaks-funded scientists play with genes in their laboratories, real autistic people are living our lives and will continue to suffer serious anxiety in many public places. Instead of writing another check to Autism Speaks, I suggest actually trying to figure out why an individual autistic person may be experiencing these difficulties. And taking steps on both a personal and societal level to ensure that public places are more accommodating of autistic people.
Autistic people deserve better than what Autism Speaks has to offer.”
-- Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Reminiscent of the failed Ransom Notes campaign, the latest video in the Autism Speaks arsenal uses a disembodied “voice of autism” that uses threat tactics, aimed at parents of autistic children.
“Voice” of autism: The “voice” speaks in a creepy, gloating, clipped tone, accompanied by the type of music reserved for scary movie scenes, saying repeatedly “I will” do (something particularly nasty) to “you,” the parent of a child on the autism spectrum.
The litany of threats listed by the “voice” give an air of criminality to “autism.” Some of the threats include robbery, pain, and “relishing desperation.” “You ignored me… and that was a mistake,” threatens the voice.
“I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong.” “I know no morality.” How dare Autism Speaks say that we have no interest in right or wrong? Yes, I know the creators of this video would say “It is autism that is speaking, not autistic people.” Think again: You cannot separate autism from the autistic individual; you impute immorality to us by pretending to speak “our” language. It’s offensive and it is damaging to us.
“Voices” of parents: The second half of the film is the “voices” of parents and others who are “fighting back.” A list of people who will fight against “autism” follows. “Parents, grandparents, schoolteachers, pediatricians, friends”, etc. Everyone but anyone on the spectrum.
“We speak the only language that matters,” the voices of the “autism community” assert. The “community” envisioned here is a monolithic community of fighters-against-autism and not the real-life community of parents (including autistic parents), families, and communities, many of whom are disgusted by Autism Speaks’ dehumanizing tactics.
The voices of real autistic people, and of families who do not subscribe to the personification of autism, and therefore their family members, as something sinister and criminal, clearly do not matter to Autism Speaks.
United Nations: Near the end of this section we hear repeated by many voices: “We are the United Nations.” It’s pretty clear that Autism Speaks is trying to gain a foothold in creeping out people in other countries.
The United Nations, by showing this film, violates its own principles in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
“As a change of perceptions is essential to improve the situation of persons with disabilities, ratifying countries are to combat stereotypes and prejudices and promote awareness of the capabilities of persons with disabilities (Article 8).”
Finally, a voice of a parent/autism community member asks: “Autism, are you listening?”
Yes we autistics and our families and friends are. We are listening to myths, negative stereotypes, the co-opting of our very real and human voices, being made, ironically enough, to say things that we would not say, threaten people in ways that we would not threaten them, and participate in our own stigmatization. And we will not rest until this sort of Ransom Notes-esque “autism awareness” campaign is thoroughly discredited.