On December 7, 2015, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) issued the following statement regarding Autism Speaks’ recent appointment of two Autistic people to its Board of Directors.
On December 7, after 10 years of widespread criticism, Autism Speaks announced the appointment of two Autistic people to its Board of Directors. The criticism from the self-advocate and broader disability community has focused on Autism Speaks’ persistent and fundamentally flawed lack of regard for the voices of the autistic community, including:
- Systematic exclusion of Autistic voices from places of leadership throughout the organization and its chapters;
- An imbalanced budget which allocates the majority of their finances towards biomedical research and fundraising, taking money from local communities yet investing little towards services and supports;
- Profoundly harmful language and rhetoric in their advertising, fundraising, and “awareness” campaigns.
The appointment of two Autistic people to their board does not rectify this damage, nor does it signal an appreciation of the damage done, or a recognition of a need to fundamentally transform organizational priorities moving forward. Unless and until Autism Speaks makes significant changes to their practices and policies of fighting against the existence of autistic people, these appointments to the board are superficial changes. Barring such changes, Autism Speaks will continue to fail to be an organization that can create real, positive change for the Autistic community.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for Autistic people. ASAN’s supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators and friends. Its activities include public policy advocacy, community engagement to encourage inclusion and respect for neurodiversity, leadership trainings, cross-disability advocacy, and the development of Autistic cultural activities.