I first found out about this project through those commercials where actors from Law & Order: SVU say in deep, tragic voices: "You know the numbers of autism... blah-blah ... go to AutismSpeaks.org." First of all, it feels not a little disturbing that the project would choose actors from a show that concentrates on sexual crimes, pedophilia, and child molestation to talk about autism. Is there some connection they are trying to promote between autism and sexual crimes? I sincerely hope not, but it always made me wonder.
Another thing that annoyed me about Autism Speaks is the language they use to refer to autism. They insist on talking about an autism epidemic but fail to give any proof for its existence. In fact, there is NO "autism epidemic." The only thing that is changing is the emergence of better tools to diagnose autism. But, of course, talking about it in terms of an epidemic maintains the idea that autism is a scary disease (The word disease actually keeps getting repeated over and over at the project's website.) They also refer to autism as "an urgent and growing public health crisis." This kind of unhealthy fear-mongering is beyond frustrating. It makes people treat autistics as some sort of diseased, scary objects, rather than people who simply are a certain way (and might actually be pretty content with it).
I saw this documentary about people with Asperger's** where a mother (evidently brainwashed by projects like Autism Speaks) learns that her son has been diagnosed with Asperger's. Her reaction to this was beyond unhealthy. She started howling (I mean it, people, there is no other way to describe it) about how horrible it was to find out that her son's life was over and that he will never experience anything good the way "normal" children do. Anybody who is even marginally familiar with Asperger's knows that it does not mean your life is over and that it does not have to lead people to mourn you as if you were on your deathbed. When I read the article that Autism Speaks dedicates to Asperger's, though, I realized why some people might see this diagnosis in such tragic terms. "Disorder, difficult, challenging, impossible,obssessive, awkward, daily challenges, isolated, overwhelmed, misunderstood, minefields, frustration, despair, etc., etc." are just some of the terms this pretty short article uses to brainwash people into thinking that if they have Asperger's, their life is, indeed, over.
My honest belief is that all this overexaggerated autism-is-a-horrible-scary-disease hysteria is being promoted by some pharmaceutical company that is planning to release a bunch of drugs and is preparing the ground to make people believe that we need to buy their junk.
** I don't speak about Asperger's so much because I think it's less deserving of attention than other forms of autism. It is simply what I know best and, unlike people at Autism Speaks, I dislike pontificating about subjects that are completely unfamiliar and alien to me.