The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), the leading national advocacy organization run by and for Autistic people speaking for ourselves, and the Association for Autistic Community (AAC), an Autistic-run organization focusing on advancing Autistic community and culture, issued the following statement on November 12th, 2013 regarding Autism Speaks’ “Autism Speaks to Washington” Policy Summit:
We are profoundly concerned by Autism Speaks’ “Autism Speaks to Washington” Policy Summit to take place at George Washington University this week. Autism Speaks has a long and continued pattern of exclusion of Autistic voices from its work on autism. As an organization without a single Autistic person on its board of directors, Autism Speaks is the last group our nation’s leaders should be entrusting with the creation of a “national plan to address autism”.
This week, Autism Speaks co-Founder Suzanne Wright announced the opening of the Policy Summit by characterizing autistic people as kidnap victims and our families as nothing more than victims of tragedy and burden. She cited inaccurate and offensive statistics claiming that Autistic people cost our nation tens of billions of dollars annually. She does this as her organization devotes only 4 cents on every dollar donated to them to supporting autistic people and our families. She does this as her organization supports pity, fear and segregated housing and service-provision in their advocacy. Is this the organization that we want speaking on our behalf? We think not.
As policymakers and disability community leaders consider how best to support the needs of autistic adults, it is vital that they reach out to organizations run by and for Autistic people ourselves. Groups that persist in excluding Autistic voices and endorsing outdated and segregated models of service-provision have no place leading the national conversation on autism. We deserve better.