The Story Behind Autism Speaks

This article is not to be taken as an endorsement of Autism Speaks.

Found on Facebook (dated 19 April 2014)
Information about Autism Speaks posted to Facebook by a member of the Autism community and dated 19 April 2014.

In the years leading up to 1986, Bob Wright served as president of Cox Cable Communications, followed by a period of time as president of General Electric Financial Services.

On September 1, 1986 Bob Wright joined NBC as president and chief executive officer.  He was made chairman and CEO of the network in June of 2001.

From May 2004 until February 6, 2007  Bob Wright served as chairman and chief executive officer of NBC Universal.

In 2004, Christian Wright (son of Katie Wright, and grandson of Bob and Suzanne Wright) was diagnosed with autism.

Bob and Suzanne Wright co-founded Autism Speaks in February 2005 because of their grandson’s diagnosis.

Previous to her son being diagnosed with autism, Katie Wright was the Clinical Director of Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Stamford Connecticut. Katie then went on to serve on the Boards of NAA and SafeMinds.

In 2005, Autism Speaks combined operations with the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) to “accelerate and fund biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism spectrum disorders; to increase awareness of the nation’s fastest growing developmental disorder; and to advocate for the needs of affected families.”

Additionally, Eric London, founder of NAAR, was quoted as saying:  “Our commitment to funding evidence-based science will always be our top priority.”

In November of 2006, Cure Autism Now (CAN) became part of Autism Speaks.  The news release stated:

Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now believe that a combined organization will attract more resources and facilitate large-scale research, while providing the funding necessary to launch planned clinical and quality-of-life programs. A single entity will foster collaboration among the best scientific minds and most dedicated advocates. This is how we will reach our common mission — finding a cure for autism.”

In 2006, Autism Speaks released a controversial video entitled, “Autism Every Day.”

In 2007, Katie Wright gave a number of print and broadcast interviews stating that her son’s autism was caused by thimerosal in the childhood vaccines he received as an infant.  Her position was that autism (not just her son’s autism) was caused by childhood vaccines.

In 2008, Bob and Suzanne Wright publicly disassociated Autism Speaks from their daughter, Katie, due in large part to the misperception that her views were the views of Autism Speaks, to the exclusion of other views on the causes and treatment of autism.

Katie Wright’s interview on the Oprah Winfrey Show in April 2008 seems to be the pivotal moment where it was decided to clarify that Katie Wright was not the spokesperson for Autism Speaks even though she was the daughter of the co-founders, and even though Autism Speaks was founded as a result of Christian Wright’s diagnosis of autism.

In a statement from Bob and Suzanne Wright, they stated that their daughter’s “personal views differ from ours.”

Autism Speaks’s mission is as follows:

“We are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a possible cure for autism. We strive to raise public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society: and we work to bring hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. We are committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals.”

Contrary to popular misconception, Autism Speaks’ mission does not include funding programs or services for individuals and families dealing with autism spectrum disorders.

On the Autism Speaks’ website, the message from the co-founders ends with this statement:

“This disorder has taken our children away.  It’s time to get them back.”

Elyse Bruce

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