DOVER, DEL. (April 2, 2008) – Dover International Speedway and Best Buy officials announced today that the June 1, 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be named the “Best Buy 400 benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks.” A variety of initiatives are planned for Dover's May 30 – June 1, 2008 NASCAR race weekend to increase awareness and raise funds for Autism Speaks. Last year's June NASCAR Sprint Cup event in Dover, also benefiting Autism Speaks, saw Martin Truex Jr. pull into Victory Lane for his first career win at the Monster Mile.I had not heard about these clubs prior to this headline. There is plenty of information about Student Clubs for Autism Speaks (SCAS) on their website. There are a few issues I take with this program. The fact that "to fund global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism" is part of their purpose statement, aggravates me. I've made it clear in the past where I feel this research looking into "prevention" and "cures" will end up.
Student Clubs for Autism Speaks (SCAS) helps further the mission of Autism Speaks by creating the opportunity for students to engage and actively participate in positively affecting the lives of people with autism. Through education, awareness, friendship and fundraising, SCAS includes students at the middle school, high school and college level.
Another issue, this club is essentially a mini Autism Speaks, one that's primary focus (again) isn't the inclusion and acceptance of fellow (autistic) students, but rather raising money. For example:
(a) Fundraising: All Clubs must field a walk team in their local Walk for Autism Research. Those outside of a Walk region should go to the Autism Speaks website for assistance. Other fundraising activities may be undertaken at the discretion of each Club.What I do like is this part of the purpose statement:
...to promote an environment of acceptance for students with autism;This should be the first and most predominate statement for such a club. Why can't we simply have a club that promotes awareness and acceptance, along with inclusion? A club that's members would welcome autistic kids, and truly become 'aware' of autism. Such a group could also be helpful for siblings of autistics. From their perspective, they could help educate the members, and it could also be empowering for them--knowing they were helping to pave the way for social acceptance of their brother or sister.
The messages that our children and teens are hearing with regard to autism will alter how they view autistics in their adult life. If your view on autism and autistics is negative, that you hate it, that it should be wiped out, you are teaching your children that when they come in contact with an autistic person they should stay away. When that same child is an adult, they won't hire an adult autistic, they won't vote for measures for support services for autistic individuals. The opposite is also true, thankfully. If you raise your child, teaching them compassion and acceptance of others, then they will reach out and say hello to their autistic peer. They will understand what autism is, and not run from it or from autistics. This child, when they are an adult, will gladly hire an autistic person, and see that services are available to those on the spectrum.
I'll have to see how these clubs evolve and change over the next few months and years, before I make my final opinion on them. From what I can tell, there are not many of these clubs nationwide--yet. It would be great if in time, the main goals for these clubs are to promote friendship and understanding between students, both on and off the spectrum. Only time will tell which direction this club, and Autism Speaks as a whole, will take (a shift and change in priorities is possible). There is some potential here.