Why Did Fashion & Style Companies Create An “Autism Market” That Excludes Autistic People? | #AutisticFashion

Original post located at AutisticStyle.Fashion.blog.

Bring on the color, and bring it in metallic, neon, holographic and pearl sheen! And then show me more in glossy, shimmer and sheer.

My happy space is in color and sparkle. I’m not alone in this love for expression. Fashion, makeup, hair and style products are loved by many Autistic people worldwide. Since networking online, we’ve realized bright expressive hair is an Autistic trend. Just one of many trends in our culture and community. 

Many companies are missing out on Autistic people’s purchasing power and preferences. They’re also really missing out on our brand loyalty. If a company makes a product I love, I tend to love it for life. That these companies are not reaching out to the actual Autistic market is frustrating, dehumanizing and often infuriating. I am not a disease. I am an Autistic person and a customer. I’m also a parent of Autistics – most of them are adult-age now. You know what we all have? Incredible brand loyalty. 

One of the constants on my vanity since I was a teen is Cody Airspun Loose Face Powder in translucent. My kids, even the grownup ones, have a deep love for products that include My Little Pony, Sailor Moon and Pokémon. For shoes, we all love Sketchers. So we’ve shopped at the outlet store here for years. Many Autistics have tales of incredible brand loyalty. What a missed opportunity for companies to exclude us.

Right now the “Autism Market” caters to non-Autistic people, and many products for “Autism Awareness” are to raise funds for the largest private backer of Autism research in the nation, Autism Speaks. This organization is known as a hate group in the Autistic community. We’ve experienced far too much ugly under their blue light to ever support their work.

Autism Speaks has been instrumental in excluding us from representation in legislation about us, including our healthcare. This was done so they could pass legislation to cover a ‘therapy’ they generated as a solution to reduce Autistic behaviors and stims. 

The goal with Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) was the Autistic child would be mainstreamed into typical education classes by elementary school. ABA was introduced as a solution to reduce the financial burden of Autistics being born today. This future calamity predicted by Autism Speaks was called the “Autistic Crisis.” The world couldn’t afford the burden of us Autistics. We would, or more specifically, our white “autistic males,” would bankrupt everyone. With ABA the promise was Autism would be cured by elementary school, and in 20 years the Autistic crisis would be averted.

Well, it’s 2021 and we know that prediction wasn’t true. Autism Speaks still treats Autistics like a tragedy, crisis and burden while paying lip service to ‘inclusion.’ The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work. 

That doesn’t stop Autism Speaks from promoting it though. They are the ones who funded the marketing to ‘show’ this therapy works. They went so far as to merge multiple autism charities in the United States to become the most powerful voice on Autism in the world. They dominated, battled and belittled Autistic people for decades in order to silence us and bully their way through with their monetized agenda. They also used their vast networks and connections to launch a a cult-like following termed “Mother Warriors” that also simultaneously silenced Autistic people at the same time.

Almost all Autism organizations have promoted harmful therapies and bullshit as a cure or solution to ‘recover’ an Autistic child. Yes, that includes Autism Speaks. This organization has been instrumental in launching the validity of anti-Vaxxers, and funded study after study after study trying to prove the link. Ultimately, their own researchers proved there’s no vaccine – autism link and had to drop it. At least officially. Later, due to pressure of Autistic activists being heard, Autism Speaks also dropped the word ‘cure’ from their mission. A lip-service gesture to keep investors happy I suppose.

Autism Speaks might have had to officially let go of the vaccine-injury claims, but in turn they are quadrupling down to protect the ABA industry. Autistic children who receive ABA have a high-risk of developing PTSD and other life-long trauma-related conditions, which is a fact that ABA-promoters try to justify and circumvent with the argument of ‘not my ABA.’

Autistic people have been fighting this harmful therapy since before Autism Speaks rallied non-Autistic parents to help push legislation that was introduced to force insurance companies to cover the cost of the therapy. Autistic people are still fighting to get it banned now, and that is the true fight for Autism Speaks: money. 

If legislation gets passed to ban Autistic conversion therapy (ABA), a billions-of-dollars-a-year industry will vanish. Autistic people aren’t fighting some organization that does good for Autistic children. We’re fighting the richest and most powerful people in the world that back the organization and profit off of us. 

It’s feels dehumanizing to see my favorite brands support an Autism organization that has done so much harm to so many in the Autistic community. Autistic activists have advocated to these companies before, trying to get them to understand, but to no avail. In my research over the years, I’ve discovered that’s because almost every large company is somehow affiliated with Autism Speaks or one of their very powerful board members. 

Every April, the designated “Autism Awareness” month, I have to see these brands gaudily decorated with puzzle pieces and messages geared to the non-Autistic population. It reminds me that with the Autistic human rights and civil rights movement, we still have so much more work to do.

One day, when I’m shopping for some eye sparkle or tinted lip sheen, I hope to see brands hiring Autistic people to market beauty and style products to the actual Autistic market, and Autistic models represented in marketing related to these products. 


Eve Reiland

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: