Thursday, August 16, 2012

Autism Speaks + Walmart= Double Trouble

Well, I'm a little late in finding out about this, but it seems the Autism Speaks has teamed up with Walmart to sell autism-themed school supplies- 6% of proceeds go to Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is probably the biggest autism organization in the U.S.- certainly they have the most money and publicity, and they get a lot of it from sensational media messages about the "Autism Epidemic" and panics over environmental causes of autism. There is a petition here asking Walmart to take these products off its shelves. I'm sure Walmart, like most people is unaware of the autism self-advocacy movement, and they just want to engage in a little social do-gooding.  Walmart has plenty of other questionable policies, but I think this one is still well meant. Still, it would behoove us to introduce to them the whole concept of self-advocacy and positive autistic identity.

I do have to make a side comment- the above post mentions that treatments for autism are not OK- but there is a difference between treating the negative traits of autism versus treating autism as a whole like a disease.
I understand we all want to emphasize the positive parts of Asperger's/autism but we also need to find ways of dealing with the negative aspects- sensory & emotional issues, social skills etc.

On this post on Disability and Me- Zach Lassiter asserts that they are using the money to support research for prenatal testing for autism to abort future autistic embryos/fetuses. Is that actually a stated goal on their website? It's a large website- I would need to poke around to see if this is actually the case. So let's be careful before we go making that accusation. I would also think many of their supporters, especially parents, would be disturbed by this.  As much as they regret that their children have autism, I bet most of them love their sons & daughters, and don't regret them being born. This country is also divided about 50/50 on the question of abortion, and I would guess these parents would be

I was also thinking about the puzzle piece symbol that many organizations in addition to Autism Speaks use. I remember seeing something about ASD self-advocates finding this offensive- the idea that autism is a puzzle. If the implication is that autism is a problem that needs to be solved then, yes that's offensive to me. But I see it more as that the autism spectrum is a fascinating cluster of conditions and characteristics that we are only just beginning to learn about.

I like to joke that it's because autistic people are often good at puzzles. I'm sorry, but every person I've met who really likes large jigsaw puzzles (1000+) seemed at least a little autistic.

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