Amy Nelson

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Protests Against NBC's Autism Series

NBC has had an autism series this season, comprising of documentaries, biographies, and medical information for their viewers.
While pleasing and informing to some, the nature and perspective of the shows have disappointed and angered some members of the autistic community.
Many adults with autism and asperger's dislike the attitude that autism is a condition that requires a cure. They prefer to seek acceptance and wish to educate members of society that autism is not a disease, mental illness, or epidemic, but a neurological difference that can have benefits.
Adults with autism are asking for help with services, housing, employment issues, but not for the miracle cure that some parents think would be best for their newly diagnosed children.
Joe Mele, an autism rights activist who protested against the NAAR walk on Long Island in October, has protested again - this time against NBC's coverage of autism issues.


He has become well known for his protest against NAAR and their search for a cure for autism.
His protest has been described as a pivotal moment in the history of autism rights, and he has been compared to Rosa Parks for his peaceful protest, the first ever by a person on the autism spectrum against those seeking a cure.
Joe Mele has today protested at a live broadcast for NBC with signs stating his views. He has tremendous support from the huge online autistic community, some of whom are semi or non-verbal and use the many forums and chatrooms to express views and ideas.

Mr.Mele has also put his money where his mouth is and asks patrons of his open source software to donate to a group he is a member of. He supports the work of Aspies for Freedom http://www.apsiesforfreedom.com and has written of his NAAR protest on the website -
http://www.aspiesforfreedom.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=321

Many autistics are unhappy with the new charity launched by NBC called Autism Speaks. Considering he fact that many autistics are semi or non-verbal it seems an ill fitting name, and the drive towards research for a cure upsets many too.

There have also been protest phone calls to the NBC helpline, and criticisms written of the alarmist talk of an epidemic of autism. There has been increased diagnosis and awareness of autism spectrum conditions, previously many were labelled as retarded and given less help and services. This does not create an epidemic however, and a recent report from the Mayo clinic confirmed that there was no link with MMR, mercury, or reasons for the increase other than better dianostic techniques.

Most of all the adults on the autism spectrum seem to desire more education of autism matters that is not sensationalist and dramatic, but simply shows their neurological differences and allows others to accept them.