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Autism Speaks Pulls Video As Critics Turn Up Heat

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Under pressure, Autism Speaks removed a controversial video from its Web site Thursday and privately apologized to a number of disability organizations. Despite this, critics are pressing forward with a public letter condemning the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization.

The controversy surrounds a video called “I am autism,” which was released in September at Autism Speaks’ World Focus on Autism event.

The video includes an eerie voice-over declaring that autism will ensure that your marriage fails, bankrupt you and make it “virtually impossible” to go out in public without experiencing embarrassment or pain. In contrast, a second, more hopeful portion of the video says parents and others will work tirelessly to overcome the challenges autism presents.

Many self-advocates found the video offensive. Autism Speaks said the video was merely an expression of two fathers who produced the film, both of whom have children with autism.

Under continuing pressure, however, the group removed the video from its Web site Thursday and privately apologized to leaders of other disability organizations critical of the film. Still, the video remains on Autism Speaks’ YouTube channel.

“Autism Speaks staff has made every effort to reach out to those who have expressed their disapproval in order to discuss their concerns and criticisms,” according to the organization’s spokesman Adam Pockriss.

Nonetheless, critics are proceeding with their campaign against Autism Speaks, publicly releasing a letter Thursday asking the group’s sponsors, donors and supporters to find new ways to support people with disabilities.

The letter charges that the video uses, “fear, stigma, misinformation and prejudice against Autistic people as a fund-raising tool” and says doing so “does real damage to people with disabilities everywhere.”

More than two dozen disability organizations including the National Council on Independent Living, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network have already signed the letter.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. ecurra19 says:

    It is simply incredible how distorted has society has gotten. No we have to please the National Organizations which are controlling the messages some parents and organization have. Now we are not only controlled by the politics, economical power but also other organizations. Great message is this one. The excuse of the Free Enterprise does not work anymore. How long this attitude is will survive with our economy? There is a lesson to be learned from this experience but labels as fear, stigma, misinformation and prejudice against any person with disabilities have endure for a long time. When are we going to focus our work? In some areas the resources of taping anything do not exist for any topic that has to do with Persons with Disabilities. That is the case in Puerto Rico. Now we have to wait until the National Organizations will give permission. This is not democracy.

  2. mads mom says:

    I have read all the comments and I think its great that people aree passionate about Autism. But some need to step back and realize that not everyone is not of the view that Autism is caused by vaccines and that it can be cured. My daughter is 11 years old we can trace her autism back to when I was pregnant. She is our third child and I knew that something was not right. Our older 2 were fast developers and very smart. They both had the same vaccines as our youngest and they do not have autism. Our youngest brain is wired differently thats it end of story. She struggles on a daily basis, she is mild to low functioning but thru ABA therapy she has overcome alot of these struggles. she is doing things and talking when up to 4 years ago before we started ABA they all said she would never able to do. she is not going to be cured but she is adjusting and overcoming her disability. You can not cure a brain that was made different from the beginning. She is not gluton intolerant, vaccines did not cause her brain to be this way, there is not a mass conspiriacy out to make sure she fails. she is who she is. we did not want her to be autistic, we don’t like the struggles and hardships and yes the feeling that sometimes we are walking thru hell. But she is ours and I live for the good moments and work for the quality life she needs to succeed. we work for others to accept the differances for many of a time she is alot more normal that the majority. she is not racist, she does not judge, when she first hugged me my life became so bright. she was 9. Life is not going to be easy, have a teenager and you will no this. enjoy every minute of the good and remember those times when the bad seems to heavy.

  3. geeegee says:

    I think it is wrong to have pulled this video. I know Autism is the condition du jour at the moment but to invalidate the truth of what these people are saying is demoralising. What they put out is part of the dire truth for many in our community, myself included. I see great harm in invalidating any of our voices.
    I was one of the pioneering parents. I remember autistic people stuck in a back room for their lives. I still have seen terrible treatment of autistic people.
    The current media and handling of the subject of autism is sugarcoated in my opinion. It leads to false hopes and dreams in some ways.
    Just wait until your kid turns 18, or actually finshes college or high school! I agree with the nature of this film because I am living some version of it and I deeply resent the attempts to minimise what autism is, does, and can do.

  4. Sharanny says:

    What happened to freedom of speech? As heart wrenching as it is, I was moved to hear two fathers speak of their pain. Autism ROBS our children of so much. My own son cannot speak, play with other children, use the bathroom or hold a spoon. He may or may not realize that he is different, or ‘disabled’, but the pain of this disorder is glaring to his typical siblings and anyone that spends more than a minute in the room with him. Do I hate autism? You bet, just as I would anything that harms my child, or disables him from functioning in this world. I understand that there are people who have the diagnosis of autism, but can function and live independently.. thank God not all children are affected like my son; but to those of you.. please DON’T SPEAK FOR ME! I will work until my last, dying breath to save my son.

  5. kbcman says:

    The operative words in Sharanny’s post were “Dont speak for me”. I understand that the two parents may have a destroyed marriage, may have suffered consequences related to their childrens autism and I am very sorry that this happened. However when speaking about an issue instead of a generic this will happen to you, they should say this happened to me. Don’t tell me that my marriage is going to go bad, maybe I am better able to cope than you were, dont tell me my life is bad, maybe I am better able to handle it than you were, dont tell me what you know nothing about, my life. That is what I dislike about this message. Yes many individuals who have children with ALL disabilities have a more difficult time and its NOT JUST AUTISM. That being the case many friends and family members would never change the fact that they have a child with autism or another disability. SO if you are speaking please speak for yourself and your circumstances but Dont speak for me.

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