Monday, September 28, 2009

Geraldine Dawson's Reply

[Dr. Geraldine Dawson has replied, in a manner of speaking, to my open letter to her. It is a stock reply, one that I imagine is similar to others being sent out by Autism Speaks at this time. It is reproduced in its entirety below. My response can be found in the comments.]

Dear Mr. Griswold,

Thank you very much for sending me your letter and telling me about your perspective and feelings regarding the “I Am Autism” video. I understand and respect your perspective and I am truly sorry that the film offended you. The video was not intended to reflect Autism Speaks broader viewpoint or attitude toward persons with autism spectrum disorder. Rather, it was created by two fathers of children with autism – Billy Mann, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, music producer and Autism Speaks board member, and Alfonso Cuarón, an Academy award-nominated film director. It is based on a personal poem written by Mr. Mann. It is an intensely personal expression by these two fathers. It was their hope that the piece would inspire other voices and artists in the autism community. It has greatly offended some people, however, and we have removed it from our website.

Again, thank you for writing to me and sharing your thoughts. You can rest assured that I will continue to advocate for a respectful and compassionate attitude and support for persons with autism spectrum disorder.


Geri Dawson


Alan Griswold said...

Dr. Dawson,

Your stock reply is not adequate. It is not that I mind a stock reply—I imagine your inbox is rather full these days with letters similar to mine, so I understand that answering each one personally would be quite the burden. No, your stock reply is not adequate because I find it nearly as offensive as the “I Am Autism” video itself.

Autism Speaks' strategy in the wake of the “I Am Autism” controversy appears to be a disavowal of responsibility for the video, placing the obligation solely on Mr. Mann and Mr. Cuarón. That strategy is disingenuous at best. It was Autism Speaks, through a direct appeal from Suzanne Wright, that solicited family footage for the “I Am Autism” video, and it was Autism Speaks that presented the video with great fanfare for the United Nations, and it was Autism Speaks that displayed the video prominently on its website and made it the centerpiece of a $100 million fund-raising campaign. It was not Mr. Mann and Mr. Cuarón who foisted this offensive and exploitative video upon the world—it was Autism Speaks.

Only after it became clear that the video was repulsive to many individuals did Autism Speaks begin slinking away. But slinking away is not an act of either contrition or honesty—it is an act of cowardice. If Autism Speaks is truly ashamed of this video, then it should say so.

But perhaps more to the point, your stock reply does not address your responsibility, Dr. Dawson. You were called upon to denounce the video as hostile and offensive to autistic individuals, and you were called upon to use your influence as an officer of Autism Speaks to work for removal of the video and for the issuance of an apology. These actions have not been taken by you, and so at the moment you are continuing to give your tacit approval to Autism Speaks' offensiveness and duplicity. The words of your letter's final sentence are contradicted by your deeds.

You say to me, “I am truly sorry that the film offended you,” but that apology itself is extremely offensive. It is not me who is owed an apology. That apology must be made to autistic individuals.

Nonetheless, I will repeat for you what I said in my first letter: it is not too late for you to make a difference. I will make your personal responsibility in this matter simple and clear, Dr. Dawson, by asking you only a single question. Will you denounce the “I Am Autism” video as offensive and hostile to autistic individuals? A simple yes or no is all that is required.


Alan Griswold

Club 166 said...

I will make your personal responsibility in this matter simple and clear, Dr. Dawson, by asking you only a single question. Will you denounce the “I Am Autism” video as offensive and hostile to autistic individuals? A simple yes or no is all that is required.

Excellent question!!

But I would not hold my breath waithing for an answer.


jypsy said...

My one question:
When is it going to be removed from Autism Speaks' YouTube channel?

jypsy said...

I'd like to change my "one question" to:

Dr. Dawson, were you lied to/misinformed or are you lying to/misinforming us?

Anonymous said...

OMG, what it is with you?
Why are you attacking this one person?
She HAS apologized, for heaven sake.

If everyone in the world behaved as you-, then the world would not be a happy place.

Dont THINK YOU you are the only person with- (or, represent every parent with-) a child with autism, or with extreme pain, and challenges....
What the heck do you want?. For her to grovel and make up for all of your pain?

Grow up.

Alan Griswold said...


I am not "attacking" Dr. Dawson - I am pointing out that she has associated herself with a video and with an organization that are openly hostile to autistic individuals. Dr. Dawson did not apologize for that association - in fact, she defended it.

As for the rest, I do not recall having set myself up as a spokesman for others, and I do not see where I ever suggested I was in pain (probably because I am not). Those appear to be fabrications on your part.