…they’re just being more subtle about it.
Near the end of last week, the headline broke: “Autism Speaks has removed the word ‘cure’ from its Mission Statement!”
That is true; they did.
That was then…
(The above is a screenshot of Autism Speaks’ Mission Statement taken from July 30, 2016; it reads “At Autism Speaks, our goal is to change the future for all who struggle with an autism spectrum disorder. We are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a possible cure for autism. We strive to raise public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society: and we work to bring hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. We are committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals. Autism Speaks aims to bring the autism community together as one strong voice to urge the government and private sector to listen to our concerns and take action to address this urgent global health crisis. It is our firm belief that, working together, we will find the missing pieces of the puzzle.”)
…and this is now:
(The above is a screenshot of Autism Speaks’ Mission Statement taken today, October 18, 2016; it reads “Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. Autism Speaks enhances lives today and is accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.”)
Some websites went so far as to say that “Autism Speaks no longer seeks a cure!”
That is bullshit; they still do. And headlines like this are not only inaccurate and misleading, but they’re also irresponsible.
Because it doesn’t take three seconds to ask Mr. Google–or even Autism Speaks’ website itself–for the truth. And the truth is more than obvious.
When I entered the word “cure” in the “search” field on the Autism Speaks website, this is what I came up with:
(The above is a screenshot of Autism Speaks’ search results for the term “cure”; it lists “Lead Off For a Cure Special Event – Andrew Leonard – 2016-05-05; Lead Off For a Cure AN EVENING TO BENEFIT AUTISM SPEAKS & THE GILLEN BREWER SCHOOL in partnership with MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Avenue (on 5th Avenue at 82nd Street) New York, NY Monday, May 9, 2016 Events – Andrew Leonard – 2016-04-01; Autism Speaks Legislative Wins in 2016 passed the US. House. H.R. 6 , the 21st Century Cures Act , awaits action by the full US… NEW Advocacy News – Nicholas.Galbraith – 2016-10-04; Autism Speaks and MLB team up to raise funds, awareness… sportscaster Bob Costas, Lead Off for a Cure raised funds and awareness for Autism Speaks and the Gillen .. Powered by Cincopa Video Hosting Platform for Business solution. Lead Off for a Cure Sportscaster Bob Costas speaks on stage during Lead Off For A Cure: Autism Speaks and Major League Baseball…News – Felipe Maya – 2016-05-10″)
As you can see, the word “cure” is all over their horrendous website.
Now compare the news headlines from multiple sources; I simply searched Google for “autism speaks cure”, clicked on the News tab at the top, and here’s what I found:
(The above is a screenshot of the headlines as they appeared in my search results this morning, on October 18, 2016. They include: “Autism Speaks No Longer Seeking Cure” from Disability Scoop, on Oct 13, 2016; “Autism Speaks Is Changing Its Mission For the First Time in Over 10…” from The Mighty, on Oct 14, 2016; “Autism Speaks updates their mission statement. ‘Cure’ is now gone” from Left Brain Right Brain, on Oct 12, 2016; “Autism Speaks looks to fund research to find cures and treatments” from KMOV, on Oct 7, 2016; “News 4 partners with Autism Speaks for Saturday Walk” from KMOV (under which they have interviewed a doctor (unknown if related to Autism Speaks) whose team “works to find out why girls seem to be more protected from autism and how close we are to finding a cure”, on Oct 3, 2016.)
I’m not buying their sudden skin-deep epiphany. And neither should anyone else.
Look, people: an entity with…
…a 10-year history of pushing relentlessly for a cure…
…who, along the way, has merged with at least 3 separate entities…
…that openly state their desire for a cure (and haven’t made their motives and efforts a secret)…
…invests huge amounts of money and effort in the establishment of genomic databases for the purpose of cross-referencing genes with known autistic people…
…who has strong-armed the US federal government into spending over three billion dollars on similar efforts…
…who teams up with Major League Baseball with talk of a cure no more than five months ago…
…and publishes news headlines on their own website (!) about “legislative ‘wins’ ” (of which a major component involves the “21st Century Cures Act” (link to actual bill on Congress.gov, which, despite being introduced over a year ago, in May 2015, not one genuine autism advocacy group that I could find picked up on this! Scroll to the very end of the post for screenshot proof) a matter of days ago…
…has not suddenly done some magical “about-face”.
They have not changed their tune at all. They’ve just camouflaged it, removing the specific Google-searchable terms.
Autism Speaks has simply responded to a backlash they could no longer ignore, a backlash that was probably beginning to cost them, in ways they could measure (although this is pure speculation on my part, since, even in as we round the final curve of 2016, the most recent financial summary they have released on their website is from 2014).
Seeing as how the idea of a cure has become a palpable point of contention, they merely chose a different word: “solutions”, whatever the hell that means.
In addition, they developed a warm-and-fuzzy-sounding “Next 10 Vision”. I took a screenshot of this, too:
(The above is a screenshot of Autism Speaks’ Next 10 Vision as it appeared on my screen today, October 18, 2016. After giving the traditional basic information-blurb about its founders and the other organizations it has merged with (where here again, the entity “Cure Autism Now” is used!), the new material reads: “Today, Autism Speaks is dedicated to advancing research into causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions both through direct funding and collaboration; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorders; and working toward solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families across the spectrum and lifespan through advocacy and support. To accomplish this, Autism Speaks will relentlessly pursue strategies that make significant progress toward the following outcomes over the next 10 years: A better understanding of the causes and typology of ASD; Children with an autism spectrum disorder being diagnosed before the age of 2; Children having access to appropriate intervention, services and resources immediately following diagnosis; The availability of better treatments both for underlying pathology as well as co-existing conditions that decrease quality of life for those with autism; People with ASD and their families have transition plans that result in more independent adult life that is meaningful to the individual; Individuals with ASD will have effective interventions, services, and supports throughout their lifetime.”)
Don’t be fooled; their “solutions” term isn’t anything different. It still means the same thing. It’s not some “good omen” of things to come, some “new generation” of the organization, some kind of “oops! We’re sorry about wanting to wipe you off the genetic map; we accept you now”, or any such change of heart. They’re still hot on the same agenda as before. “Interventions”, “treatment”, “pathology”, an “understanding of the causes”, are all phrases they’ve stated before. And they’re still right there, in plain sight, on their website.
(As an aside, what’s this “diagnosis before age 2” thing? I mean, true autism can’t even really be verified until between ages 2-3, on the basis of speech delay alone, not to mention some of the other characteristics that don’t show up for another couple of years yet.)
Nothing has changed. They didn’t undergo some massive awakening or spontaneous enlightenment. The same old archaic and judgmental sentiment is still there, and it’s not going anywhere. Period. It’s just more vague now, more politically correct, and less inflammatory and antagonizing, shrouded in as-yet-uncorrupted terms.
But the organization itself is still wolves in (cheap) sheep’s clothing.
This is a one-word change, folks. That’s it. It’s semantics and nothing more. Hell, it shouldn’t have even made the news, because it wasn’t news at all.
Shame on all of the news entities that attempted to make a mountain out of not-even-a-molehill by essentially creating an entire story out of thin air.
Shame on them for (epically) failing to take literally three seconds to dig run a simple search (either on Google or the Autism Speaks website itself). And I know that those “journalists” didn’t lift a finger to investigate. Because if they had done so, they would’ve found that there’s no real story here at all.
On the other hand, a complete dismantling of this awful organization and true, genuine universal acceptance of the reality of neurodiversity…now that would be worthy of headlines.
Almost forgot…about that 21st Century Cures Act…here’s the Twitter screenshot of the three–yep, three–whole autism-related tweets about this act: