Light it Up Blue?
April is autism awareness month and ‘Lighting it up blue’ seems like an innocent and thoughtful thing to do. It’s meant to be a gesture of genuine caring and an attempt to bring visibility to an invisible diagnosis. What you may not know is that light it up blue is an ad campaign by Autism Speaks and its purpose is not to bring autism acceptance, but to impart fear.
Light it up blue is a brilliant marketing campaign. Most people who see the blue puzzle piece inside a lightbulb immediately recognize the image and the tagline ‘light it up blue’. It’s almost as pervasive and recognizable as the golden arches and McDonald’s.
Here’s the thing, most folks who light it up blue believe they are showing solidarity and support to the Autistic community. They would be shocked to know that Autism Speaks is a powerful fear mongering organization. Yep. Fear mongering. Autism Speaks perpetuates fear by using language like “terrifying epidemic” and “crisis” to describe autism. The organization also calls Autistic people “burdens” on society. Until 2016, Autism Speaks openly worked toward finding a ‘cure’ for autism. A cure for a person’s neurology, seriously?
They even produced a video (that has since been withdrawn, but you can still find it), that insinuated having an Autistic child meant the end of life as you know it.
I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness. I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. I will make sure that every day you wake up you will cry, wondering who will take care of my child after I die?
As a neurotypical parent of an Autistic child, I can promise you that I do not wake up every day in tears about how terrible autism is or how autism stole my child. In fact, I find the opposite to be true. Having an Autistic child opens my world to be more vivid, and it challenges me to see things in ways I otherwise may not.
Autism Speaks tried to find a cure. There is no ‘cure’ for autism. You can’t cure how someone is wired; it’s part of their genetics. Think of it like operating systems; a PC will never be a Mac and vice versa. Autism Speaks would prefer that you train Autistic people to behave more neurotypical than accept their neurodivergence.
Here’s a blurb straight from Autism Speaks:
“Ultimately, you may feel a sense of acceptance. It’s helpful to distinguish between accepting that your child has been diagnosed with autism and accepting autism”
Seriously? What’s so wrong with acceptance? Nothing. There is nothing wrong with accepting the genetic makeup of a person. You cannot accept a person while NOT accepting their neurology. It’s not possible.
Light It Up Blue is an awareness campaign- not an acceptance campaign. Awareness is about creating a sense of urgency and fear. It presents Autists as a problem to be solved and as stereotypes, not real people. Awareness is a tool Autism Speaks uses to push their largest media campaign and secure donations. Awareness is easy. Acceptance requires actual work.
Acceptance says “you are you, and that’s awesome. I am me, and that’s awesome.” Acceptance seeks to meet Autistic people where they are and choose to embrace them instead of merely tolerating them. People who are aware care about Autistic people in spite of their quirks and challenges. People who are accepting care, in part, because of the quirks and challenges. They also recognize that you cannot separate the quirks and challenges from the person.
Awareness says that autism is a tragedy. Acceptance says that the tragedy would be trying to make an Autist any other way. See why Autism speaks might choose awareness over acceptance?
Still think Autism Speaks isn’t so terrible? Let’s look at some facts.
This infographic was obtained from Autistic Self Advocacy Network here.
The bottom line is simple; I choose to accept neurodivergence and see beauty in it. Autism Speaks would rather perpetuate fear and harmful stigmas associated with autism rather than embrace Autistic people and truly help them and their families. I challenge you to embrace acceptance over awareness this month and dump Light it up Blue and Autism Speaks. Instead, check out Autism Acceptance Month, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and Autism Women’s Network.