Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Opposing Alarmist Rhetoric

ASAN Southwest Ohio sent the following statement to the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon regarding language used on their website to promote fundraising for autism research:

I am writing to express my concern about alarmist statements on the Cincinnati Marathon website regarding autism, which could have the effect of increasing society's unfounded fear of autistic people and inciting prejudice and discrimination. On your front page, promoting the Run/Walk for Autism, there is a comparison of autism to cancer, diabetes, and AIDS, which misleadingly causes people to view autism as a disease that their family members are at risk of catching. A reader who follows the link to the page promoting the Autism Run/Walk event will be informed that those who "haven't had a close connection with autism" are "fortunate" and that autism is a "horrible epidemic."

In fact, autism is a developmental condition, not a disease; it does not make anyone sick or kill anyone, and it cannot be acquired from contact with autistic people. Comparing autism to deadly diseases such as AIDS can cause uninformed people to shun autistic individuals out of a groundless fear that they or their family members will somehow catch autism. For the same reason, autism should not be characterized as an "epidemic," which is a term that usually refers to an outbreak of contagious disease.

For a more detailed explanation of why such language is harmful to autistic people, please read the public statement by Jim Sinclair and Susan J. Golubock asking those who are concerned about helping the autistic community to oppose the use of alarmist rhetoric about autism.

I personally have a close connection with autism, in that I am an autistic person myself and have several relatives who are also autistic. This will be my seventh year running in the Flying Pig Marathon with my husband, and I find it very offensive that your website would suggest that my existence is horrible and that those who have no close connections with families such as mine are fortunate. Please think about how you would feel if you and your family belonged to a minority group that was being described in such terms, and edit your website accordingly.


Meg Evans
Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Southwest Ohio

Update: In response to our concerns, the Cincinnati Marathon has edited its front page so that its link to the event's website does not contain the cancer/AIDS analogy or any other language reposted from the event's website. The event's organizer, Janet Leiter of the Autism Society of Greater Cincinnati, can be contacted at info@autismrunwalk.com regarding the language on the event's website.


PLANET3RRY said...

Oh, this is good. I just happen to be running in the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon this coming up May... and although I am running for personal reasons, I will be out there promoting my non-profit organization ASD Athletes.

I got the heads up on your post from Runman's(another fellow autistic runner) mom. I will link and pass this around my running/blogging circle.

I do know that the ASA chapter in Cincy is going to have a group out there... for whatever it's worth

POWER TO THE SPECTRUM [or insert your own saying here] Cheers, Terry

asansouthwestohio said...

Thanks Terry! Perhaps next year we can officially sponsor our own team.