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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 64
Gender: Male
Posts: 25,950
Location: Long Island, New York

30 Apr 2021, 2:37 am

Autism Awareness Display Vandalized on Emory Quad

A blue, gold and white balloon arch stood in the middle of the Quad on April 1 to attract students to Emory Autism Awareness Organization’s (AAO) “Light It Up Gold” display. Posters spreading autism awareness populated the grass, with a different fact about autism placed in each social-distancing circle. Mason jars filled with Emory-colored lights were placed atop each poster, illuminating the Quad in Emory colors at dusk.

By the time Holly Shan (18Ox, 21C), president of Emory Autism Awareness Organization, returned to the Quad to take down the display on April 4, the posters were ripped apart, the display covered by others’ posters and the balloons deflated and torn down. Shan says this wasn’t surprising.

“Holly was there the next morning and she FaceTimed me and she’s like, ‘you’re never gonna believe what just happened,’” Henry Blair (23C), co-vice president of the organization, said. “Everything has just been messed with, and it was very clear because there was no inclement weather that weekend and those jars were placed over the posters.”

Shan explained that vandalism to AAO’s display happens every year because students think the club is still organized with Autism Speaks, which it is not.

“No one’s opposed to autism but a lot of people are opposed to Autism Speaks, so I kind of rebranded our organization from the Autism Speaks U into something totally different, which is just an Emory-funded club,” Shan said.

AAO was only affiliated with Autism Speaks during the club’s inaugural year, Shan said. Following harassment from peers, Shan decided to disaffiliate the club from the organization. However, some of the club’s advisors are still affiliated with the organization: Shan herself has worked for Autism Speaks for eight years.

“We don’t know who did this, whether it was an autistic student or some neurotypical trying to be an ally, but either way, it was not helpful,” Neely said. “I’m a self advocate, but I also know it’s important not to burn bridges with parents and professionals. We need to be mindful of problematic affiliations, but people shouldn’t be having knee-jerk reactions to student poster displays.”

The posters that the vandalizers put over AAO’s posters shared the controversies surrounding Autism Speaks. One poster read “only 4% of auti$m $peak$ budget goes to supporting autistic people.” AAO responded to that claim by saying “84 cents of every dollar that is donated to Autism Speaks or given via grants are directly allocated to autism research or services” in an April 4 Instagram post.

Because the club created an Instagram post sharing their response to the vandalism and addressing the “misconception[s]” expressed on the vandalizers’ posters, Shan said the club decided to not take any further steps in confronting the vandalizers, such as filing a bias report.

Three members of the Autism Speaks Board of Directors also reached out to thank the club for their post and the professional way they handled the situation, Shan said.

Given the political climate, the only thing I am surprised about was that it took this long to run into a story like this or worse. That does not make it easier to post.

I am surprised that considering the display is vandalized every year that apparently security cameras were not put in place.
Since the club will not do anything about this I hope the local/student ND organization(s) does.

Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity.

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


Joined: 5 Mar 2018
Gender: Male
Posts: 809

30 Apr 2021, 7:47 am

I mentioned previously Autism Speaks treads the tightrope between the advocates and cure seekers.

So ends up being hated by all.

If it comes down on one side it no longer represents the spectrum as a whole and ALL autistic people.

What’s the point of another ASAN?


Joined: 5 Mar 2018
Gender: Male
Posts: 809

30 Apr 2021, 11:00 am

In fact ASAN was probably founded due to Autism Speaks pro cure position at the time.

Then the National Council on Severe Autism was created following the rise of neurodiversity and Autism Speaks removing the cure objective from its mission statement to please ND.

So in a wide spectrum when one representative body comes down on one side, the people they represent dont change, the opposite side just go & form another group.

Which is why attacking Autism Speaks is futile.