Autism Awareness Blahs

My wife and I like to take walks along the main street (actually, Third Street) of the nearby township. It is something out of a movie — even the park gazebo was donated to the community after a film wrapped. My wife said last night that the village across the way looks like something built for a model railroad layout. We live in Middle America, Hollywood-version.

And so, walking past the large, sky-blue puzzle pieces taped to store windows, the blue ribbons, the flyers, all these signs of "Autism Awareness" neither surprises nor pleases me. If anything, it annoys me to have "Autism" plastered all over cars, stores, and various products.

I want to shout, "Stop it!"

(Want to know more about the autism puzzle and the perspective of autistic adults? See:

Personally, I hate stickers and magnets on cars. Bumper stickers? How can you put a sticker on a huge investment, ruining the paint? I would even pay extra to have the dealer not to advertise on my car. I don't want to advertise my views, my causes, or even my shopping preferences. (The one exception: a little white Apple logo in a rear window, which helps me find the white car among a sea of other white cars. And the sticker is only on the glass.)

Q: Don't you want to promote autism awareness?

No. People are aware, and misinformed thanks to the groups promoting autism awareness month and day.

Q: Don't you like the symbols of support?

No. I'd rather have real acceptance and appreciation for my skills and abilities, not some symbolic gesture.

Q: Don't the blue ribbons and puzzle pieces give you hope?

For what? More marketing gimmicks? It's like pink for breast cancer or red for AIDS: companies donate a small fraction of their profits, usually five or ten percent, and we're supposed to feel great about walking around with pink, red, or blue merchandise. If it was something you needed to buy anyway, great, but don't buy something because it has some symbolic meaning.

Q: But would we know how much autism is increasing without the awareness campaigns?

Confusing diagnostic rates and incidence rates isn't a great outcome of "awareness" campaigns. If anything, the paranoia fostered during April does more harm than good. My inbox was filled with Generation Rescue notes this week: Am I using the best fish oil? Do I know the value of GFCF diets? Did I know some pressure chambers "cure" autistic traits? Do I realize that Big Pharma controls all autism research? And on and on. Thanks, April, for increasing the awareness of nutty theories.

Q: But… but… people want to show they care. Are you that cynical?

Show you care by caring. Find out what the autistic in your life enjoys, and do it together. Find out what a teacher might need in his or her classroom, and help obtain it. Make a difference by doing something. Take action, which means more than putting up a ribbon or puzzle piece.

Be change. Take action.
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  1. Wow way to bitch at people.

  2. A Penny Drive for a summer program would benefit children of Autism. We just raised $744.40, and I in the same breath placed HUNDREDS of such symbols around our school. Careful at that which you knock.
    A 5th Grade Teacher

    1. Unfortunately, many of the organizations promoting the "symbols" of autism spend a fraction of the funds they raise on direct supports, local organizations, or research concerning the lives of autistics. It isn't limited to autism, sadly, as many non-profits spend most of their funds on "management" and "fundraising" — something deeply disappointing.

      Many autistics and their advocates are deeply concerned by groups associated with these symbols. I'm not as vocal as some, but you can easily find the concerns online within the autistic community.

      Doing something positive for autistics doesn't have to include the symbols associated with the groups that associate autism with "stealing a life" or "losing a child." It's more complex that than, but the messages often thrive on the rhetoric of fear.


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