Long overdue Autism Speaks removes the word “cure” and puts the needs of autistic individuals and their families first in their new mission statement
By Debra Muzikar
At a Board meeting in late September the biggest autism nonprofit in the world, Autism Speaks, revamped its mission statement.
The old statement reads:
“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.”
The new version is:
“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.”
The announcement triggered much debate on social media and was met with a mixture of skepticism and hope.
Autism Speaks has received intense criticism over the years from autistic individuals and autism organizations who claim their past media campaigns and investment into genetic research to find a cure has increased the stigma surrounding autism. Many autism organizations have been displeased with Autism Speaks Walks which divert money from local autism nonprofits.
The last year has seen major changes in the nonprofit. Founder Bob Wright resigned as Chairman of the board, Chief Science Officer Rob Ring stepped down, two autistic people were appointed to the board (Stephen Shore and Valerie Paradiz), Angela Geiger replaced Liz Feld as President and CEO, and co-founder Suzanne Wright lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.
“The winds of change were blowing before we got on the board. Our being nominated to the board was probably an acceleration of that change. The vision seems to focus more on working with autistic people rather than doing things to autistic people,” Stephen Shore says.
The Art of Autism applauds this new direction and looks forward to seeing money going to employment, housing, and initiatives which enhance the lives of autistic people and their families. We’d love to see Autism Speaks offer free booths to autistic entrepreneurs at their Walks (including Autistic people in meaningful ways).
The Art of Autism also revamped our mission statement in September. Readers can read it here.
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