September 23, 2009
Dr. Laurent Mottron
Centre de recherche Fernand-Seguin
I am calling on you to denounce the Autism Speaks video “I Am Autism” as hostile and offensive to autistic individuals, and I am calling on you to reconsider your acceptance of funding from Autism Speaks, an organization that is exploitative of autistic individuals, and unscientific and unethical in its day-to-day practices and fund-raising campaigns.
As the parent of an autistic child who is loved deeply for all his characteristics, including—indeed, most especially—his autism, I can tell you that the “I Am Autism” video is disgusting on every level. It perpetuates stereotypes, it presents as fact statements that are not backed by a shred of scientific evidence, and it exploits the images of autistic individuals without their consent. The video is heinously reminiscent of the NYU Child Study Center's widely condemned Ransom Notes campaign, and it demonstrates the depths of cruelty and ignorance to which an autism charitable organization can sink when that organization deliberately excludes the input and participation of autistic individuals.
As you know, I hold the work of both you and your research team in the very highest regard. Your efforts have contributed to the knowledge about the strengths of autistic individuals and have highlighted the many positive contributions autistic individuals have to make. While I understand the difficult task you face in running a research enterprise and in obtaining adequate funding for your work, you must realize that accepting significant money from Autism Speaks, an organization openly hostile and offensive to autistic individuals, serves only to undercut the very nature of your work. No matter how alluring or seemingly harmless such funding might initially appear, in the end association with an organization such as Autism Speaks becomes all too obviously, and all too tragically, a pact with the devil.
Openly denounce the “I Am Autism” video. Use your influence as a respected autism scientist to urge your colleagues to do the same. And if your efforts to reform the deeds of Autism Speaks do not succeed, I call on you to reconsider the wisdom of continuing to accept funding from such a repulsive organization.
The harmful practices of Autism Speaks survive only on the tacit approval of those who should know better. It is not too late for you to make a difference: remove your tacit approval.
Respectfully and urgently,