The problems with ‘Color the Spectrum’ for people who might be new to autism advocacy…
Alright, so a lot of people took interest in my criticism of Color the Spectrum. I’m gonna be honest, it wasn’t my best work. It was rushed because I was angry. I’m taking a new medication that has been intensifying my emotions and I’m also working on my last few weeks of class as an undergraduate. But this is important. So in this post, I’ve taken the time to explain the flaws with Color the Spectrum in a way that is more accessible to people who are not immersed in the nuances of autism advocacy.
The first issue is that the organization sponsoring Color the Spectrum, Next for Autism, supports eugenics. This might sound extreme, but it is true. Next for Autism says on its website that one of its goals is to “prevent” autism. They partner with several organizations that do intensive genetic research, including SPARK and Autism $peaks. Next for Autism and SPARK are looking for a prenatal screening for autism. A prenatal screening would allow parents to selectively abort Autistic children, which is common done to children with Down syndrome in Europe. Now, I am very pro-choice, but selective abortion is eugenics, and eugenics would weaken the resilience of the human population. One of the core elements of the Neurodiversity movement is that different brains are valuable for the health of the human race.
The second issue with Next for Autism is that they are a parent-run organization. This might not seem like an issue, but as Imani Barbarin reminds us, disabled people are most likely to be murdered by our caregivers (additional source: Lohr, 2017). Next for Autism’s goals and priorities are not guided by Autistic voices. This means they fund Applied Behavioral Analysis and use person-first language (most Autistic people use identity-first language). I am not the best person to discuss the dangers of ABA, as I only experienced a few months of it, but I do know that it uses a similar philosophy to dog training to suppress Autistic behaviors like stimming. I also know that exposure to ABA increases the likelihood of developing PTSD (Kupferstein, 2018), and a Department of Defense healthcare review found that the benifical effects of ABA were negligible (Donovan, 2020).
Lastly, I take issue with the event being called “Color the Spectrum.” The name makes me think the proceeds are going to an organization that focuses on providing racially diverse and competent care. This is not a part of Next for Autism’s mission. It feels likely they want to capitalize on American’s newfound desire to promote racial equity, without actually promoting racial equity.
So who should you support instead? My first recommendation would be The Color of Autism Foundation. They are a BIPOC lead organization that makes culturally competent autism services accessible. The “Color the Spectrum” event might be infringing on their trademark! Yes, I know they use puzzle pieces in their logo, which is infantilizing and implies that autism is a puzzle that needs to be solved, but you can’t get everything you want and they are doing all the important things right. My other recommendation for organizations to support is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). They are Autism $peak’s main competitor. One criticism of ASAN is that they sometimes speak over intellectually disabled autistic people. I point out the flaws of these organizations to help you make informed choices.
Donovan, M. (2020, June 25). Report to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives. Retrieved April 20, 2021, from https://therapistndc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Annual-Report-on-Autism-Care-Demonstration-Program-for-FY-2020.pdf
Kupferstein, H. (2018). Evidence of increased PTSD symptoms in autistics exposed to applied behavior analysis. Advances in Autism, 4(1), 19–29. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxyau.wrlc.org/10.1108/AIA-08-2017-0016
Lohr, D. (2017, March 15). How murder victims with disabilities get blamed for their own deaths. Retrieved April 20, 2021, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/murder-victims-disabilities-mercy-killings_n_58bd5abfe4b05cf0f401b603
TL;DR: Color the Spectrum, a celebrity fundraiser gives money to eugenicist research. They support ABA. Do not support them.