You want to be helpful. Really. Useful. You were surprised, recently to find yourself finally seeing it, the harm that is done by groups like Autism Speaks. That video, that disembodied voice, Big Scary Voice and its claims of destruction, you saw this time how these omnipresent repetitions build a world where autistic people and people with other disabilities are shunned, marginalized, treated in so many ways as less than human. Less than real. You get it now. But what about that walk coming up? What about that inbox filling with walks and runs and bake sales and pledge drives and other pleas for contributions? These have been ways to express your concern for...I don't know...something about autism? Someone you know?
It's harder now, maybe, to know what to do, now that you've seen how one large and powerful group monopolizes the public attention, drains it, until the stream of misinformation is absorbed unquestioned, unnoticed even. It's harder now, and that's a good thing.
Here are some options to consider while you are not "walking for autism."
- Make a contribution to an organization for autistics by autistics, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.
- Contribute to another disability rights organization.
- Donate money or time to a homeless shelter or food bank in your area. The unemployment rate for autistic people is extremely high, more so even than the rate for people with disabilities in general. There are many autistic people living on the streets and in shelters.
- Sponsor a registration at Autreat for someone who would not otherwise be able to go.
- Read more blogs by autistic people. There are some folks out there who are struggling. A word of encouragement might make a difference to someone who is desperate.
- Lobby for an end to seclusion rooms and restraints in schools.
- Challenge inaccessible spaces, wherever you find them.
- Invest in companies that include people with disabilities in key roles.
- When you see someone being bullied or harassed, intervene. It is not enough to just not actively participate.
- Invite an autistic person to lunch.
- If the person agrees, then have lunch. Talk. Listen.
- This might take a long time. Listen more.
- Consider expanding your definitions of words like "listening," "speaking," and "communication."
- Repeat as needed.