Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hard Times for Autism Speaks

It appears that Autism Speaks may be feeling the financial consequences of having chosen to use fear-mongering ads as a fundraising tactic, to fund research aimed at eradicating autistic people instead of giving families any meaningful help, and to exclude autistics from participation in its decision-making process. Due to budgetary constraints, all of its 2009 grants, including those already awarded, have been cut by 15 percent, with the exception of pilot and fellowship grants.

This hasn't been accompanied by a reduction of Autism Speaks' hefty executive salaries, however, as pointed out in a recent editorial by former walk organizer Cindy Waeltermann entitled Autism Speaks. It’s a Living. After reviewing the expense information on the IRS Form 990 on the Autism Speaks website, she wrote:

Now I ask you, does this look like an organization that is suffering? It looks, to me, to be an organization that cares more about highly paid salaries, posh offices on #2 Park Avenue in New York, pricey fundraisers and getting its name in the newspaper. They seem to exist solely to pay salaries and throw parties…

…Autism Speaks is gaining quite a reputation in the autism community. They come into a town near you with their sweeping public relations teams, hold their annual “walk for autism” dog and pony show, sucking every last dollar out of the community, only to take it back to those posh #2 Park Avenue offices. While it may seem like a noble cause, the main result of Autism Speaks’ tactics is that LOCAL organizations that actually HELP people in your very own community by providing services and supports end up begging for funding. How long are we, as an autism community, going to close our eyes to what’s really going on here? The big corporate New York “show” organization is going from town to town like an infestation of locusts sucking out every last dollar that they can in order to pay 68% of its income in salaries and overhead.

In advising her readers to just "walk off," she also mentions that Autism Speaks has been protested and picketed by autistic adults and that it has been widely condemned for its spending, its scare tactics, and its treatment of autistic people.

I'll add to her observations that according to Autism Speaks' annual report, only 4% of its grants went toward family services anyway, even before the budget reductions. It was only a matter of time before parents started to realize that they had been duped. No organization can get away with a greedy scheme like that for very long.

But hate speech is free, unfortunately, so we're not likely to see any cutbacks there.



  • Who knows why their budget is down (well, they may know). Bad economy could be one reason.

    Another reason could be that donors are taking advantage of having a charity that doesn't promote the vaccine hypothesis. Did the Autism Science Foundation take some donors with them?

    By Blogger Sullivan, at 9:34 PM  

  • @Sullivan: Yes, as with most things, I'm sure there must be multiple reasons.

    By Blogger abfh, at 9:39 PM  

  • Oh, no! Now those poor fat-cat executives on top will have to wait another month to upgrade their McMansions! Boo-hoo! Seriously, I have very little sympathy for an organization that spreads hate and spends most of its money on executive salaries.

    By Blogger Sadderbutwisergirl, at 10:14 PM  

  • What SBWG said!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:56 AM  

  • Yeah keep attacking an organization that actually tries to help autistic children and adults because they don't subscribe to your social model of autism ideology. Your problem is that it is parents who actually care about their own children who join or follow Autism Speaks. Most of them are not going to buy into your tired Neurodiversity rhetoric.

    By Blogger Autism Reality NB, at 12:44 PM  

  • Thanks for linking to this. I sent the link to Bruce Springsteen's manager.

    By Blogger VAB, at 12:56 PM  

  • I know lots of parents who don't support autism speaks..some of them believe that vaccines are to blame, some genetics, some environment..and many aren't sure. Regardless of what they believe happened to make their children the way they are-they don't support autism speaks..
    When you are a parent of a young child-you are their voice until they are old enough to use their own. Autism speaks does not speak either for me or my children-the parents I mentioned above feel quite the same way. This has nothing to do with anyones "social model of autism ideology" It has to do with the fact that autism speaks-speaks only for itself...and it's board of directors pay themselves well to do so. The amount of services and programs for kids like mine in this country have been decreasing at an alarming rate-where is autism speaks? On Park avenue,further cutting funding...but not salaries. I guess people just don't feel like walking any more.

    By Blogger kathleen, at 9:06 PM  

  • Thank you, Kathleen. I wish I'd had a mother like you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:39 PM  

  • Maybe the reason AS is in such deep financial woe is because they left a lot of their money with Bernie Madoff. If so, that may be the only good thing that Madoff (inadvertently) did.

    By Anonymous rglovejoy, at 10:49 PM  

  • @rglovejoy - Interesting if true, but how do you know they lost money to Madoff? It would be fitting, if their hobnobbing bit them in the ass!

    By Blogger Clay, at 4:07 AM  

  • Gracias
    Buen artículo

    By Blogger Lionel Messi, at 7:59 AM  

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