1) Very little money donated to Autism Speaks goes toward helping autistic people and families: According to their 2010 annual report, only 4% of Autism Speaks’ budget goes towards the “Family Service” grants that are the organization’s means of funding services:
While 44% of Autism Speaks’ budget goes toward research, only a small percentage of these funds go towards research into improving the quality of life of autistic people. Most of the research which Autism Speaks funds is devoted to issues of causation and “prevention,” including the prospect of prenatal testing.
2) Autism Speaks talks about us without us. Not a single autistic person is on Autism Speaks’ Board of Directors or in their leadership. Autism Speaks is one of an increasingly few number of major disability advocacy organizations that refuse to include any individual with the disability they purport to serve on their board of directors or at any point in their leadership and decision-making processes.
3) Their fundraising strategies promote fear, stigma, and prejudice against autistic people. Autism Speaks uses damaging and offensive fundraising tactics which rely on fear, stereotypes and devaluing the lives of people on the autism spectrum. Autism Speaks’ advertisements and “awareness” campaigns portray autistic adults and children not as full human beings but as burdens on society that must be eliminated as soon as possible.
4) Autism Speaks is not financially responsible. Although Autism Speaks has not prioritized services with a practical impact for families and individuals in its budget, its rates of executive pay are the highest in the autism world, with some annual salaries exceeding $400,000 a year. Additionally, their fundraising expenses exceed their spending on most of their core programs. Given these facts, Charity Navigator rated their financial health as 2 out of 4.
If you would like to donate money to organizations which help autistic people, I recommend:
- The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), which provides support, community, and public policy advocacy, by and for people on the autism spectrum.
- Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE), which
brings together the academic community and the autistic community to develop and perform research projects relevant to the needs of people on the autistic spectrum.