The detrimental impact of ableism on Autism Awareness Month (opinion)

Ableism by itself is a terrible concept since it is discrimination, but it is the reason why autism is commonly misunderstood.

The detrimental impact of ableism on Autism Awareness Month (opinion)

Anakin Morales-Jimenez, Reporter

The month of April is recognized as Autism Awareness Month, which is designed to spread information about autism spectrum disorder, and gain acceptance for people who fall on the autism spectrum.

Autism Awareness Month is also, unfortunately, a time in which information can be easily contorted and misleading by those who have harmful intentions against autistic individuals.

Ableism is a form of discrimination that is in favor of able-bodied individuals, and the intentional misinformation and ridiculing of autistic people is a prime example.

Discrimination against people with autism has existed even before autism spectrum disorder was first recognized in 1911 by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, and before doctors in the 1940s in the United States used “autism” to describe individuals with symptoms closely related to the disorder. People who exhibited behaviors deviant from the expected roles and norms were historically sent to asylums and mental institutions that were usually abusive and detrimental.

As research improved, and the awareness of the disorder become more prevalent, people with autism were continually provided the appropriate services and respect from the general population.

However, despite the improvements, ableism still continues to prevail with negative stereotypes being thrown around, hindering people with autism that face discrimination.

Autism Speaks is a prime example with their ableist ideas.

Although Autism Speaks takes a great amount of time spreading “awareness” of autism spectrum disorder, the organization treats people with autism as if their disorder is a disease that needs to be cured, and that it is an unfortunate tragedy that occurs in families.

Autism Speaks has also been shown to direct their budget to other aspects instead of providing that money to those who are impacted by the disorder.

As reported on The Odyssey, “…Autism Speaks’ most recent budget report for the 2014 fiscal year, it spent 15.7 million dollars of the 57.5 million dollar total on family grants, which directly aide families and people with autism. They also spent 23 million dollars on employee compensation with many of their board members earning six figures.

“Moreover, most of Autism Speaks’ budget goes toward research rather than to direct care. Autism Speaks has a history of not allocating its funds to appropriate research. In fact, its symbol, the puzzle piece, was created as a symbol of its purpose; to find the missing pieces of genetic material to establish a connection with autism and genes. This sort of research is problematic because it is part of seeking a cure for autism…”

Autism Speaks does not act alone— over all social media platforms, work environments, school environments, everywhere in general, there exists that sense of ableism in different forms.

Let’s get some things clear: autism spectrum disorder is different for everyone, and in no circumstance should a person with ASD be discriminated.

The main intent of Autism Awareness Month is to gain acceptance and understanding of the disorder. Do not take that away from those who need it.