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January 2011



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First Published Wednesday, 15 April 2009


*ASAN Southwest Ohio sent the following statement to the Cincinnati Flying
Pig Marathon regarding language used on their
website<http://www.flyingpi gmarathon. com/>to promote fundraising for
autism research:

http://asansouthwes tohio.blogspot. com/2009/ 04/opposing- alarmist- rhetoric. html

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<http://autism. change.org/ actions/view/ 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.

Ari Ne’eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
http://www.autistic advocacy. org

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