Having an autistic child is not the end of the world--far from it. It is my hope that through this blog, at least a handful of people will get to understand that. My child is amazing, she brings us tremendous joy. We have good days & bad days, but we CHOOSE to focus on the good. Our belief is that by loving our daughter, giving her the most comfortable environment we can, and by most of all accepting her differences, she will continue to blossom--in her OWN way.


The Money Trail...

Where will all the money raised by Toys R Us go?

Autism Speaks and Toys R Us have had a relationship for over a year now. This year, it appears, they are going all out. Which, like I said earlier this week, one can only wonder what all will come in April. In addition to the in-store donations, "the world's greatest toy store" is also accepting them online. At the time I write this, $539,448 has been raised (which, is up over $20,000 from the $519,229 they were at when I began drafting this last night). They are raking in, on average, more than $30,000 a day. Given that, they very easily could raise over 2 million dollars. This campaign began on March 2nd and continues until May 2nd. We all know where this money will go to: research, research, research--the Autism Speaks mantra. Of course, some money will go toward entertainment, catering, private jets, salaries to people like Allison Tepper Singer, and who knows--maybe an Autism Everyday Part II? Read about it on the Autism Speaks' website (their 2006 report, I can't wait to read 2007's). As Lisa Jo Rudy writes,

"Personally, I'm encouraged to see community grants and insurance issues are making it to the front page of the Autism Speaks website - though I'd love to see the organization create a division dedicated to living - and thriving - with autism."
We shall see if Autism Speaks ever gets a clue and decides to actually support autistic individuals. Then perhaps so many of us wouldn't cringe when we checkout at the Toys R Us, turn on Oprah, or see that the Sundance Channel is premiering "Autism Everyday" on April 2nd. I won't hold my breath though. Here's how they prioritize those living with autism, as per the "goals" statement from their website:

We are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. We are committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals.

Notice the order:
1. make LOADS of money for research into causes, prevention, treatments, and cure
2. raise public awareness (via depressing "documentaries" apparently)
and, if and when we get around to it, "bring hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder"

They never actually say they want to help autistics, or create programs for teens and young adults, or support job-training, independent living, etc. for adult autistics. Bringing hope is a rather broad term. What hope exactly are they bringing? That one day a "cure" might exist, or that prenatal screening will be available? Once again, painting the bleak picture of the "hardships" we live with is getting rather old by now. Now compare Autism Speaks' goals with The National Down Syndrome Society's values and The National Autistic Society's vision and mission statements. Keep in mind, also, that the NDSS began in 1979 and the NAS has been around for over 35 years.

I'm not sure what "puzzle" Autism Speaks wants the public to think they are concerned with solving. To those of us who take personal offense by their messages and continue to receive zero support from them, we understand what this "puzzle" is. They promote the idea that if your life is touched by autism, you are miserable, your child has been "stolen," you are in debt, your marriage is falling apart (if it hasn't ended horribly already), and your life is one long nightmare. When you combine those viewpoints, the statements made by the "leaders" of Autism Speaks, read over what research their money is going toward, and see their tax return, it becomes clear. The puzzle they are struggling to solve is how to end any future generations of autistics. They want nothing more than to annihilate autism, all together, all of it--all future autistics, and frankly nothing else. They've even convinced politicians like Hillary Clinton to make public statements about working to "prevent and cure anything along the Autism spectrum." As for the autistics living (and thriving!) today, well, let's just disregard them altogether.

Autism Speaks could learn a lot from The National Down Syndrome Society and The National Autistic Society. The day that Autism Speaks actually reaches out to Autistics, and makes supporting those individuals a priority, then perhaps I would like to "help autism" at the check-out line.


Lisa Jo Rudy said...

Thanks for the kind words re my blog!

On a related note - I just got an email from a Florida group working on insurance issues, and it suggested folks go to a site called "autismvotes" -- yet another Autism Speaks property.

Last week, Autism Speaks announced that "they" were running World Autism Day (and I mistakenly believed them)... I should go back and reread the press release; it probably doesn't word it quite as I read it, but the implication is very clear indeed.

It's true: they are doing some very good work. But then again... not only am I uncomfortable with the "autism as hell" rhetoric, but just in general I am not happy about the idea that Autism Speaks is fast becoming a monopoly.

Something is awry...

Lisa Rudy
About.com Guide to Autism

Patrick said...

I also wonder if ToysR really knows what their supporting... are they perhaps in denial about the idea of this charity that potentially wants to deprive them of future customers?