ASAN Vancouver: Protesting Autism Speaks #boycottAutismSpeaks


ASAN Vancouver: Protesting Autism Speaks Walk. H is holding a sign that reads “Autistic Rights are Human Rights #lovenotfear”

Last week H and I made our way into the big city to attend an ASAN meeting with the newly founded ASAN Vancouver Chapter. (ASAN = Autistic Self Advocacy Network)

H was pretty quiet during the meeting, and was creating things on his iPad, but he was definitely listening.

He was at the table… and my intent is to support him in gaining a sense of community and a way to be involved in activism and disabilities rights should he so choose.

I cannot say if he will wish to continue with this as he transitions to adulthood – though he is my son and has a heart for social justice – so I suspect he might.

The point is though – that I see it as my role and responsibility to support him in connecting to other Autistic people as well as people within broader disabilities communities. I want him to know that his voice matters – that he has a place at the table – and he can sit – or not – but the possibility will be there for him.

His activism right now is about empowerment and pride – and supporting him in this is a way of mitigating the negative stigma of organizations such as Autism Speaks.

So… today we once again headed into the big city, this time to participate in ASAN Vancouver’s protest of the Autism Speaks Walk.

On the drive in we discussed many things, as is always the case on our drives. Today, among other things, we talked of stigma, and eugenics, and how sad it is for families to hear the message that their Autistic child is a tragedy… and be sucked into believing it…

H gets this stuff… and I can tell you that I feel pride in his indignance!
And he is proud to be playing a role in combating the negative messages!

So the protest was small, but it was almost entirely well received. Our rough estimate was that there were about 50 conversations today that were game changers, and an enormous amount of ASAN and #BoycottAutismSpeaks flyers were shared with people as well.


Sarah, H, and Amethyst at the ASAN Vancouver A$ Protest.

H said: “If they knew what Autism Speaks is doing – they wouldn’t be walking – but protesting with us!”

I concur!

And maybe as a result of today’s efforts, some of those walkers will be along side us next year…

Because this is how change happens… and H and I agree that today was made of win!!

H, wearing his #BoycottAutismSpeaks shirt, is standing in front of an old building. He is looking at the Margaret Mead quote that has been painted on the side. Text reads: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

H, wearing his #BoycottAutismSpeaks shirt, is standing in front of an old building. He is looking at the Margaret Mead quote that has been painted on the side. Text reads: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)

About Leah Kelley, Ed.D.

Leah Kelley, M.Ed, Ed.D., Writer, Consultant, Activist, Speaker, and Educator, working with Teacher Candidates at UBC. Authors blog: 30 Days of Autism. Projects support social understanding, Neurodiversity paradigm, Disability Justice, and connecting Disability Studies in Education(DSE)to Educational Practice. Twitter: @leah_kelley Facebook: 30 Days of Autism: Leah Kelley
This entry was posted in ableism, acceptance, Activist, Advocacy, advocate, ASAN, Autism, autism stigma, Autistic, Boycott Autism Speaks, Margaret Mead, social justice and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to ASAN Vancouver: Protesting Autism Speaks #boycottAutismSpeaks

  1. Leah Kelley says:

    Post Script:
    I have been asked by a couple of people to elaborate on my phrasing “almost entirely well received,” thus, here is a bit more information:

    The comments were mostly positive, but there were also some less than stellar comments from some AS Walk participants…
    One guy said “Shame on you!!”
    After has passed, H said… “No – shame on him!”
    There was an overly debatish guy – but he was delicately and politely thanked and asked to move along because he was making people uncomfortable when he entered into his second ten minute round of banter…
    There were other things – like people turning away or hiding behind their signs.
    Nevertheless…many people were interested, and most people were polite, which was positive, particularly since this was the first time ASAN Vancouver (a new chapter) has protested this walk.


  2. What are the problems with Autism Speaks? I’ve heard of it, but in terms of disabilities, Autism is very hard for me to understand! Just as Tourette Syndrome is hard for other parents to understand unless you live with it with your own child everyday!


  3. kraftycatcreations says:

    I have just found your blog. I have a daughter who is autistic and she is no burden at all. She has told me that Autism Speaks is not a good organization and your blog clarified some of it for me.

    I read some of your other entries and will be reading much more of your blog, looking for ways to help my daughter accept herself. She was not diagnosed until the age of 21 (3 yrs ago) and had been treated since the age of 11 for depression and anxiety. If only they had diagnosed her properly to begin with, she would not have felt so hopeless when all of the drugs and counseling did not change anything for her. We have a long way to go and no one to talk to. Thanks for giving me insights into some new paths we can try.

    Liked by 1 person

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