|KOMU News on Flickr|
You cannot read a paper or browse online without seeing something about autism awareness month. It is great to make people “aware” of autism and other disorders, but what does awareness really mean? Is awareness making life better for people with autism and their families?
The Oxford Dictionaries define awareness as:
- Knowledge or perception of a situation or fact
- Concern about and well-informed interest in particular situation or development
|Hepingting on Flickr|
Other than letting the public know that autism exists, is there a substantial effort to educate and inform the public about:
- Interacting with a person with autism
- How to tell that someone might have autism
- Employing people with autism
- The capabilities and talents of people with autism
- Practical help that families of people with autism need
- The help children and adults with autism need in education, health and housing
I don’t think so.
Think of all the money that is spent organizing autism awareness events, designing and printing autism awareness materials and getting buildings to use blue lighting – would that money be better used to directly benefit people with autism?
Don’t get me wrong. I support efforts to make the world aware of autism, but sometimes it seems more like a public relations stunt for organisations instead of an effort to help people with autism.
Autism Speaks is the largest organisation I am aware of that promotes April as autism awareness month. How much is it spending to promote this awareness? What is it spending to help families affected by autism? Get ready to be surprised!
|Screen grab from YouTube|
According to its most recent accounts, Autism Speaks spent over $76 million
in 2013 on “Awareness and Other Services.” To put this number in perspective, Autism Speaks spent nearly $19 million on salaries and just over $4.5 million on “family service grants and awards” in the same year.
|Extract from page 4 of Autism Speaks’ Consolidated Financial Statements for Year Ending December 31, 2013|
|Extract from page 5 of Autism Speaks’ Consolidated Financial Statements for Year Ending December 31, 2013|
How many people would benefit if $76 million was spent helping people with autism and their families? When people donate to Autism Speaks, do they realize the disparity between the amount of money spent on families and research and the money spent on salaries and awareness?
I didn’t start this post to write about Autism Speaks. A lot is already written about Autism Speaks’ finances as well as its depiction of autism. You can check its accounts and make your own decisions. My question is this:
Is there a better way to use the money and other resources currently used for autism awareness month?
What do you think?