From the iconic puzzle-piece decals on minivans to the Empire State Building lit up in blue, Autism Speaks has entered mainstream America. For many, the organization is synonymous with the autism advocacy movement—an incredible feat for an organization that’s been around for less than a decade. Seeing the logo at Major League Baseball games and local walkathons is a sign that a disorder once only associated with Rain Man is getting the mainstream attention and care it deserves.
In under a decade, it’s become America’s most recognizable autism advocacy organization. But some opponents say its research tactics and spending habits are more hurtful than helpful.
But for others within the autism advocacy community, Autism Speaks is a deeply flawed organization—one they say that has neither earned the right, nor has the capability to “bring the autism community together as one strong voice” as its mission statement claims.Former NBC Universal Chief Bob Wright and his wife, Suzanne, started the organization in 2005—about a year after their grandson was diagnosed. At that time, the disorder was diagnosed in 1 in 166 children; today it is 1 in 68. That surge in prevalence is by no means a result of more cases as much as greater awareness, and therefore, medical diagnoses. And that may be a credit to Autism Speaks. Continue reading