Written by Josephine Woods, 25/04/2021 

On the 30th April, YouTuber Mark Rober and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel are hosting an event called Color the Spectrum, aimed at raising awareness and money for the charity NEXT For Autism. The event will include a whole host of celebrities including Steven Colbert, John Oliver, Andy Samberg and Jack Black. However, this is not as good as it might seem. Lots of people in the online autistic community on Instagram posted screenshots of the NEXT For Autism website, highlighting that the NEXT charity sends money to the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, a program it created that had the statement on its website that it researches causes and cures for autism. This should only need to be said once: Autism is not a disease, and therefore cannot and more importantly does not need to be cured. The autistic community attempted to have their voices heard, but unfortunately, it does not seem that the people running Color the Spectrum listened.   

Instead, the charities under fire, NEXT for Autism and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, deleted those statements from their websites and replaced them with an FAQs section, which didn’t exist before the controversy. These stressed how the charities did not support eugenics and curing autism. This massive campaign to ignore or erase entire parts of the charities’ messages is just one of the many times autistic voices have been ignored. The singer Sia’s film Music also contained an incredibly offensive portrayal of an autistic person and the ways to support them. This included a non-autistic actor portraying an autistic character and showing restraints that experts have said could kill autistic people having a meltdown in a positive light. 

This is not right. It does not matter where in the world this is, we should care about this, and this is important. The global Autistic community is affected every time something like this happens, and it is happening far too much. Why do people think it is still alright to ignore the concerns of the recipients of this huge charity event in the first place? Next for Autism isn’t the right charity for this cause. There are much better ones that the autistic community will happily recommend, just listen. As one autistic student put it, “How long do we have to tell people: nothing about us without us?”