Managing Editor's Note: In 2006, Autism Speaks put its name on a video called
"Autism Every Day" when they first launched - the movie was powerful, raw and evoked the struggles families face trying to do their best for their children with autism. Some groups felt the portrayal of autism was too harsh, maybe too real, not in keeping with the message that autism is simply another way of being. AS has since tried to tread the middle ground - pleasing no one but the mushy middle, government agencies, certain donors and industries. Neither the firmly Neurodiverse nor the biomedical communities feel that this corporate entity with autism in its name is meeting the needs of the community. The photo on the left is an ad from AS. Sure we think our kids are superheroes, but the photo on the right is from Autism Every Day. We wish David (below) all the best and we too celebrate his capabilities which mirror that of many of our kids. But not all.
By Anne Dachel
This autism awareness video is just out from Autism Speaks. It’s supposed to be a response to the allegations of a link between autism and violent behavior like the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but in truth, it’s a strong message that seeks to downplay the reality of what autism is doing to our children.
An animated boy named David talks about how autism affects him personally. It’s more indoctrination to convince us to accept that no one knows the cause and that we’re really not much interested in why autism happens. David talks about “autistic people” and we’re told that “millions of people are affected by autism.” The message we take away from this is that autism affects individuals across the entire population—not overwhelmingly children, which is the truth about autism.
“People with autism have challenges in social situations.”
“It is not an illness. It will not go away. No one knows exactly why people have autism. I will always have autism.”
“As we all know these are difficult times. Not only for our entire country but also for the millions of people affected by autism. As media outlets speculate on the preposterous link between autism and violence there are many innocent people being harmed. We must try and be as loud as we can that this horrifying act has nothing to do with autism.” Matthew Asner, Executive Director for Autism Speaks
“’My Name is David’ is an animated short film from one of the animators of Robot Chicken, Matt Manning, that depicts a young student’s speech to his fellow classmates about his autism. The film features the actual words and voice of the author of the speech, 14-year-old David Shapiro Sharif. Sharif’s speech aims not only to educate children and adults about autism but also to give a voice to the more than one million young men and women with autism in schools throughout the country.”
David’s message is hardly a cause for alarm. He evokes images of Rain Man. He has excellent verbal skills and it’s easy to imagine that kids have always been like this. Autism doesn’t seem so bad. This kid sounds like he’s doing okay.
I wonder how this would go over if we were shown a boy flapping his hands, unable to speak, wearing a helmet with a voiceover saying,
“There are many children with autism who can’t speak and they are sick a lot. Their parents are constantly worried that they might do something to hurt themselves or they might get out of the house and run out into traffic. Sometimes these children are still in diapers as teenagers.
“Many kids who have autism were born healthy and were developing normally until they suddenly got sick, lost learned skills and regressed. Doctors can’t explain why this happens.
“Parents are also worried about what will happen to their children when they’re not able to care for them anymore because no one has ever been able to show us a significant population of adults with autism and each of these children will cost society millions for their support and care.”