The largest organization with a theme on Autism called “Autism Speaks” created the “Light it up Blue” initiative in 2010. Basically, businesses are asked to light their buildings blue to bring public “awareness” about autism or they ask individuals like you to wear blue, making you believe that the colour blue is the colour of Autism. Blue is NOT the colour of Autism, it is the colour of the Autism Speaks Corporation.
Most times, well-intentioned people wear blue because they think this is a way to “support” their autism community and bring “awareness”. We understand the good intentions, having said that please consider the following facts:
- In 2017, Autism Speaks spent 1.6% on helping autism families. In 2012, they spent less than 4% on them (US$2,048,552) but spent a whopping US$18,484,028 in salaries. What about 2014? They spent over US$120,000,000 and just 3.84% of that money towards family related services. An obscene US$52,935,472 went to advertisement to keep the donations coming and an equal outrageous US$23,300,191 in salaries. What about families? At the bottom, they received a mere US$4,631,690.
2. Organizations such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (run by individuals on the Autism Spectrum) and others do not support Autism Speaks. Therefore, why promote an initiative that those on the Autism Spectrum themselves do not support? It is time to listen…
3. When you’re wearing blue or Light It Blue, you need to be aware that you are actually supporting an organisation that is making millions of dollars using Autism as a brand and only a tiny percentage of what they receive goes towards helping actual Autism families or individuals financially. Some of their top executives receive over $500,000 (per person) in salaries.
4. Some local businesses are profiting from Autism during Autism Awareness Month by selling merchandise, offering discounts on “blue” items and treating Autism as a fashionable or trendy theme like Easter or Christmas. Autism is not a brand or a public holiday and our children’s challenges should not be used and abused for profits.
5. Some people say: “I understand what you are saying about Autism Speaks but I still wear blue because people make the connection and bring awareness”. If we are about to seek change for the lives of those living with Autism, we need to start to listen by respecting those who truly matter in this whole equation – those living with Autism. Point #2 states that individuals on the Autism Spectrum do not support Autism Speaks or the Light it Blue initiative. Then why should we?
6. We kindly ask those who provide services for children /adults with Autism to please consider stopping their support of this initiative in their events and use of hashtags on social media since it hurts the same people they are serving. We have read in the past that some of these places are aware of the real Lighting up Blue and even though they agreed with the truth of what has been stated about Autism Speaks and about this initiative, unfortunately they decided to continue supporting it regardless without taking into consideration how it affects those living with Autism and their families.
What can you do to truly help individuals with autism and their families locally?
Find a local family and ask them directly in what ways you can assist them. Maybe you can sponsor therapy or private tuition for their child. If you own a business, you can hire someone on the Autism Spectrum. Support them by listening to what they have to say and respect it. Be a true friend. A kind note or letter from a well-meaning neighbor, preparing a nice meal for a family, inviting a child with autism to birthday parties or play dates are all great ways to show these families that they are not alone. Genuine acceptance is the best way you can lend support to someone with Autism.
Since APATT’s establishment in 2015, we have been talking against the Light it Up Blue initiative and explaining the reasons why you shouldn’t wear blue. We are glad to see that many eyes and ears have been drawing attention to this and in the last couple of years; this campaign has dramatically decreased.
Autism shouldn’t be a business.