April is Autism Awareness Month. With this knowledge comes the decision of what charities to donate to, which can be difficult given that some charities for autism have a long and controversial history of trying to “cure” autism. Others, meanwhile, use donations to fund the organization and give money to support those with autism and their families.
Outside of these three organizations, others exist with more controversy. The controversial nature of these other charities is derived from how they spend the money donated to them within the organizations themselves and how much of the money is actually given to families in need or to research. Others have a known history of being ableist or trying to “cure” autism.
The controversy of Autism Speaks stems from how members promote their organization. As the largest nonprofit organization related to autism, people are not fond of the stigma and misunderstanding of autism that comes with the organization’s promotion and marketing.
However, the controversy of Autism Speaks goes farther than just their marketing style. Autism Speaks also worked in direct opposition to the Autism Cares Act. This act works to help with inclusion of those with autism and also gives money to organizations researching and donating to families affected by autism.
Despite controversy surrounding Autism Speaks, it is still the number one nonprofit for autism awareness. In fact, Alpha Xi Delta (AXiD) sorority’s philanthropy is Autism Speaks.
“We do donate to Autism Speaks,” said Aubree Johston, philanthropy chair of Albion’s chapter of AXiD. “It is our philanthropy, however we try to focus more on autism acceptance rather than just donating money. We love our philanthropy and bringing awareness to such a great cause.”
Through its philanthropy, the sorority does more than just donate money, as Johnston said. In addition to donations, members of the sorority interact with children who have autism.
“We did a pen pal experience for kids with autism,” said Johnston. “We matched each girl with a kid who had similar interests as them, and they got to write letters back and forth.”
More Widely Accepted Charities
While Autism Speaks doesn’t have the best track record with helping the community it seeks to help, other organizations have held true to their promises to provide aid to those with autism and their families.
The Asperger/Autism Network
The Asperger/Autism Network provides individuals, families and professionals with information, education, community, support and advocacy.
The organization was one of the first Asperger-based organizations in the United States. While its primary mission is to help individuals affected by Asperger syndrome, it is an inclusive community meaning it is willing to offer their services to all people with neurological differences who feel that the organization would help them.
Another organization to donate to is TACA also known as The Autism Community in Action.
The organization’s mission is to provide education, support and hope to families that are living with autism. Its vision is for every individual diagnosed with autism to be able to live an independent life.
TACA also holds different events and seminars for those affected by autism to interact with one another and build a community with each other. For more information, look into its 2019 summary of activities and financials donated to families in need.
The Autism Society of America
The Autism Society of America is the leading source for reliable and trustworthy information about autism.
Its mission is to improve the lives of those living with autism. It also works to educate others about autism, and it hosts a national conference each year where it helps guide families and those affected by autism through their journey.
The Autism Society of America also led numerous federal, state and legislative acts, such as the 2006 Combating Autism Act. This act worked to enhance public awareness about autism and create an education program where people will be able to read the symptoms of autism.