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December 13, 2009

According to this video, that’s what autism is – a dementor that will ruin your life if any of your family members has autism. Transcript here*.

The video shows clips of people with autism, all standing alone while doom-and-gloom music plays. Then the narrator starts talking. He tells us that if you have a child with autism…
…your marriage will fail,
…you will go broke,
…you won’t be able to sleep,
…you won’t be able to leave the house with out embarassment,
…and you will cry everyday because of your autistic child.

Oh yeah, and this is from a charity that supposedly “helps” people with autism. By telling them that their condition is actually a dementor that will suck all of the hope and happiness from everyone around them. And by telling them that they need to be “cured” and that we need to “fight” autism. This video is just so wrong in so many ways. Luckily, there have already been a number of awesome take-downs of this video by other bloggers – in particular, check out this one by codeman38 at Normal is Overrated. The end of that post also includes links to a ton of other pieces that trash the Autism Speaks video (and organization). I think my favorite is “Harry Potter and the Bigoted Charity” – apparently I wasn’t the first one to use HP analogy to mock this video.

I think my “favorite” line from the narration is this one:

I [autism] work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined. (OOGA BOOGA!!!)

Um…..what??? First of all, AIDS, cancer and diabetes are all progressive and possible fatal diseases whereas autism is a non-fatal, static condition. Also, how does autism “work” exactly? And how does it “work” faster than anything else? (Full disclosure: in the Harry Potter take down, the author mentions that they may mean that autism is more prevalent than those diseases. But geez, if that’s what you mean, then say it that way). Secondly, autism is not something that we need to “fight” or “cure”. It’s a condition that some people have. It doesn’t go away, and it’s not a problem, it’s just how some people’s brains work. We can certainly work to make better accommodations for them, or to understand them and their thought processes better, but we do not need to “fix” people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. And that brings me to my third point. It is called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for a reason. There is a huge variety of severity and manifestations of ASD but the video acts as though all families with an autistic person are in the exact same situation. Yes, raising a child with severe ASD is not easy, but your life will not be a hopeless black hole of tears and failure because of it.

There are also some astute and hilarious video responses on youtube. Like this one where that borrows the script from the Autism Speaks video, but replaces “autism” with “hatred”. The transcript for this video is in the info section if you click through to watch it on youtube.

And this one by (OMG) an actual autistic woman who points out a lot of the reasons why the Autism Speaks video is a offensive and even dangerous. Transcript after the jump.

And for good measure (and because I think we could all use some warm-fuzzies right about now), here’s a positive video about a little boy with autism made by his mom (who strangely enough does not seem to have had her soul sucked out through her mouth by his autism). The only words in this video are on the slides, there is music playing in the background.

Can we please stop talking about non-neuro-typical people as though there is something wrong with them? They may be different, but they are not deficient and attitudes like those expressed in the Autism Speaks video just serve to promote the idea that people with ASD are somehow lesser than neuro-typical people.

* I changed this post slightly in order to include transcripts to the videos.

Transcript of the video “autism speaks – the opinion of an autistic”

Good evening everyone. I’d just like to share my opinion on the Autism Speaks video which I read on a forum and I thought well, no one’s made a video reply, I’d like to just say what I think about it. And maybe people will benefit from it.

As someone with Aspergers I find it marvelly offensive regardless of the fact that it’s clearly a marketing campaign, but a lot of people don’t see things as they’re intended by marketers and that’s what people don’t seem to realize. I know people who are low functioning, who are at the low functioning end of the spectrum, may benefit from a cure, but I don’t really see what this video is trying to prove. Families love their autistic children, people already know that. It seems more like they’re trying to make autism as a public enemy that has possessed people’s children. And I see that as actually a very negative thing. Autism can very well be a negative thing for low-functioning people who suffer from it but I believe there are better ways to help these people than this aggressive approach that puts everyone on the spectrum in the same boat.

The thing is, autism is not a disease, comparing it to cancer and AIDS, I mean, come on, it’s wired into our brains you don’t try to cure someone because of what’s in their DNA. What you’re saying about preventing it also implies that you’re trying to weed autism out of the human race. Sure it would be great for people with it to not have to suffer but you seem to overlook the positive effects of being on the spectrum. Not for some, but a very large percentage of people diagnosed as being on the spectrum there are positive things. It’s people who treat us like we’re defective who make our lives hard.

You’re intentions may very well be good, but non-autistics and people who don’t understand are gonna watch this ad campaign video and treat autistic people like they’re public enemy number one. This may not be what you’re trying to enforce but never underestimate the public’s ignorance. To a lot of people out there, autistic people are autism. They won’t see it as a condition, the people themselves will be blamed.

What’s this about autism ruining marriages though? I mean, fair enough, I mean I don’t know whether you’re assuming that it’s an autistic child ruins marriages or autistic partners ruin marriages. But it’s all relative, I mean there are a lot of things that ruin marriages and I would say autism is a very low percentage of that. Like I said earlier, people are going to see this and they are going to play the blame game. They’re gonna say “uhh, yeah, this kid’s the reason my marriage failed” or “oh, you’ve got autism, that’s why our marriage failed,” etc.

I mean, growing up as an autistic child, of course I could see the impact it had on my parents. And it wasn’t nice all the time. And it broke their hearts that I wouldn’t play with other children a lot of the time. But it’s not ad campaigns like this that help – it’s people who teach parents and loved ones that their autism needs to be understood and embraced, not cured like it’s a defect. It would make life a lot happier for autistic children and their parents if that was the case.

I can very well see why parents are offended by this. They love their children the way they are and don’t see them as a defective condition or a cause of things like ruining marriages or making people cry everyday, ’cause I think that’s going a bit far.

To summarize, I think their intentions are good but this campaign is negative and enforces ideas into the heads of the general population. There really are two sides to autism – the suffering, and the understanding, accepting, and embracing. I think you’d benefit more from a more balanced focus on these two sides as opposed to enforcing autism as the enemy. And thanks for your time for listening, that’s just my two cents on this video.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2009 2:20 PM

    Thanks for the link! Found your post via my Google Reader subscription for Autism Speaks-related posts. A perfect present to see on my birthday. 😀

  2. December 15, 2009 12:15 PM

    Thank you for including a link to my post!

    I agree entirely about the ways in which autistic people might interpret this video. I have a friend (a young adult autistic man) whose parents divorced fairly recently. Naturally, this is quite upsetting for him. If he sees the video, is he supposed to believe that his parents divorced because of him? Urgh.

    The numbers provided aren’t even accurate. I’ve seen no reputable source claim that 80% of married couples with an autistic child have divorced. In fact, there’s a recent Easter Seals study (I believe) which shows that couples with an autistic child are less likely to divorce than the general population.

    But of course Autism Speaks and Cuaron have never let facts get in the way.

  3. December 15, 2009 1:54 PM

    Oh, and thanks for adding the transcripts. Fatigue + auditory processing disorder on my end + Kiwi accent = missing half of what’s said…

  4. brilliantmindbrokenbody permalink
    December 15, 2009 5:48 PM

    Sheesh, some people just don’t get it.

    I’m NT, but I have friends that are on the spectrum. One of them doesn’t get implications, so I have to make sure I say exactly what I mean. The other doesn’t read body language accurately, so I have to put everything in words.

    It’s not like it’s hard. It’s just like anyone else who’s different – enunciating clearly for a deaf person lipreading or using words instead of gestures for someone who is blind.

    But of course, this is starting with a basic respect for the humanity of ALL people and understanding that my way is not necessarily the right way. (And man oh man, I will never understand the people who honestly believe that their way is the right and only way. Their thinking is dysfunctional, not the people who they refuse to understand or make themselves understood to)


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