Advertisement to 'Wipe Out' Autism Sparks Outrage

autismIn Seattle, a bus advertisement with the best of intentions recently sparked outrage among some in the autism community. So much so that the Seattle Children's Hospital, who sponsored the advertisements, had to pull them from all buses.

Next to an adorable boy's smiling face was one sentence: "Let's wipe out cancer, diabetes, and autism in his lifetime." It seems like something with which no one could disagree --- who wouldn't want to wipe out autism? In fact, there are actually more than a few people who believe it's not something we should try to wipe out, but rather something that should be embraced.

Matt Young, co-leader of The Autistic Self Advocacy Network's Washington chapter, explained why it's offensive to some via his Tumblr account.

[The ad] may look to you like a simple message of hope, calling for an end to medical conditions that destroy lives. But despite popular opinion, that’s not what autism is. Unlike cancer or diabetes, autism is not a life-threatening condition. Autism itself often enriches lives; it is the fear, desperation and hatred that our culture currently holds for autism that can and does destroy lives.

It's not the first time we've heard this argument, and I understand it ... to a degree. I also admire him and those who hold these beliefs greatly for embracing the differences this disability brings with it -- but it is a disability. For so very many families, autism presents incredibly painful and difficult challenges. It can be heartbreaking and devastating, financially and emotionally. Parents of children with autism worry about their safety every day and lie awake at nights worrying about their future. While it may not technically be a disease (and no one really knows, so it could be), it can be no less harmful to a family than cancer or diabetes.

For some on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, it may just be part of what makes them them. However, I have a hard time believing that anyone -- if given the chance -- wouldn't prefer to live (or have their children live) in a world without every emotional and social advantage they could have without a disability.

Wishing away something that affects your child's health doesn't mean that you don't love your child (or yourself) as they are. I don't know one family affected by autism who doesn't wish they'd never heard that word, even though they love their children fiercely. And society wanting to spare people the pain that comes with autism doesn't mean we hate people who have it. Does society have a long way to go when it comes to understanding autism and embracing those who have it? Absolutely, but I also don't think that means we shouldn't do everything we can to stop it from affecting anyone we can.

Do you understand/agree with the reason people wanted these advertisements pulled?


Image via Beverly & Pack/Flickr

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Chana... Chanandler.Bong

I absolutely agree with the autism advocates! And this article is a little offensive. Autism is a spectrum, sure, and there are many who do have severe symptoms that would like to live without those symptoms. But for many autistic individuals, the very idea of "wiping out" autism is a huge insult. I understand you are entitled to your opinions, but to say that you have a hard time believing that anyone would choose to stay autistic is highly insensitive and offensive. You are looking at the situation from YOUR viewpoint only and not allowing others to view the world in the way that they do. And to not understand how others wouldn't want to be changed to be like everyone else is your problem, not autistics. This world would be a much better place if we stopped making generalizations of how everyone else should live and just start accepting everyone for who they are.

Caera Caera

No I don't. 

Anyone who wouldn't be thrilled for their child to live a normal, healthy life, unencumbered by the disability autism is, is a backwards ass-hat.

Autism is not a gift. It is not a blessing. It is not an enrichment. 

It is a disability.

draco... dracobella

Most autistics can read you know. They take things quite literally too. If my son were to read that he'd think the medical community wanted to kill him for who he is. Sound like a good slogan now? How about helping autistics of all ages and their caregivers instead of stamping them out?


Ashley Littlejohn

If we "wiped out" autism, I wouldn't have the same 5 year old son I love so dearly. He's only 5 and questions why people think he's sick when he hears them talk about wanting a "cure" for Autism. He's not as effected by it as some, but that still doesn't make it okay for people to emply he's defective and needs fixing.

LadyM... LadyMinni

So my brother who, at five years old, almost strangled a kid with a feeding tube to death somehow had his life enriched by that? His life was enriched by the years of being violent? How is beating your older sister until she ends up in the hospital enriching? How is it helpful to anyone. Look I get not being ashamed of being disabled, I'm certainly not, but it is BS to claim to be proud of it. Autism is and can be a life threatening condition. My brother has tried to kill people before, he has threatened to kill himself before. Autism is a sickness, it is a disability. I hope that it is wiped out and wiped out quickly. I want them to heal my brother, so that he can lead a real life. My brother wants it gone, why shouldn't I? Nobody wants to be disabled.

Happy... Happydad73

Ok, responses like this make me insane!!! On one hand the autism awareness community screams bloody murder that vaccines and milk and old paint and who knows what else causes autism and what a horrible tradgedy that is. No they are up in arms saying how wonderful it is and they wouldn't change it for the world. Make up your stinking minds.

Chana... Chanandler.Bong

The majority of autistic self-advocates do not want a cure for their autism.  The majority of people studying, raising, and working with/for autistic individuals do thing there needs to be a cure for autism. This is not an issue of autistic people making up their minds; it's an issue of non autistic individuals actually listening to autistic individuals and respecting their opinions instead of saying "I don't understand how you could feel this way; therefore, you're wrong."

That being said, I do feel that because of the spectrum aspect of autism, those with more severe symptoms who may not be able to speak up for themselves may in fact want autism wiped out. I don't know. What I do know, from reading books by people with autism, checking out the Autism Self Advocacy Network, and getting to know self advocates, is that those who speak up for themselves are insulted by the very idea of curing autism.

Blithe Milks

I think this is just like the deaf issue. I don't get not wanting your child to not stick out and be a lightning rod for mistreatment, but if the autistic community wants to embrace all on the spectrum as part of the autism community, more power to them.I don't find it offensive, but I'm not part of the community. It's up to the community to determine its parameters.

Sara1... Sara10711

The ad wasn't saying that we hate autistic children. I learned about a girl named Carly on Facebook that is autistic and she says there's a lot of sensories coming at her at once and its overwhelming and sometimes it feels like there are ants crawling all over her body and I think her head hurts at times. This does not sound pleasant. I lean towards the theory of babies getting exposed to so many things at once when they are born. Pitocin, epidural, lots of vaccines...

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