Home Nonprofit organization Students express concerns about Autism Society of Indiana

Students express concerns about Autism Society of Indiana



Image courtesy of @ buadvocates4autism on Instagram.

HANNAH HOWARD | STAFF JOURNALIST | hvhoward@butler.edu

The decision to invite Indiana Autism Society to 2021 Big Dawg Career Fair as a potential employer has raised concerns among some students on the Butler campus. The values ​​of the organization are part of a larger conversation regarding the medical identification of autism.

The question of the presence of the Autism Society of Indiana at the Big Dawg Career Fair was brought to the attention of the president of Advocates for Autism, junior sociology and French double major Laura Vandermeulen. During a meeting on Monday, September 13, Vandermeulen was informed that the Autism Society of Indiana had pulled out and decided not to attend the in-person or virtual events of the Big Dawg Career Fair.

The Big Dawg Career Fair features for-profit and non-profit organizations, graduate schools, and gap year programs. Internships, jobs, graduate admission, service opportunities and more are presented to Butler students, graduate students, and alumni of all majors.

Autism Society of Indiana, ASI, is a nonprofit organization and leader in promoting autism awareness and knowledge through education, advocacy, information, and referrals from services. Organization mission is to ensure that every individual and family affected by autism in the State of Indiana receives the high quality services they deserve.

Under them Autism facts and statistics section, ASI states that autism is “treatable – not a hopeless condition,” “Currently there is no cure for autism. But with early intervention and treatment, the various symptoms associated with autism can be dramatically improved and in some cases overcome completely. The use of words like “treatable”, “condition”, “symptoms” and the idea that there might be a “cure” or that it can possibly be “overcome” can be problematic given the historical treatment people with disabilities.

Autism spectrum disorders is an intellectual disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral problems. People with autism can communicate, interact, behave, and learn differently from other people. Autism is similar to ADHD or Gilles de la Tourette syndrome in that it is a disability and a different variation in how the brain works. You cannot get rid of autism, it is not treatable because it is not a disease.

Vandermeulen said she was not surprised that an organization like ASI was invited to campus.

“I saw the puzzle piece in their logo on Handshake, ”Vandermeulen said. “And I was like… that doesn’t sound like a good sign.” And I was disappointed and confused. And I felt the need to tell my leadership team to make sure we could move forward and get this out ASAP. ”

The puzzle piece is usually associated with Autism talks, an organization that is associated with the promotion of harmful ideas about autism.

Advocates for Autism was not consulted to assess the potential impacts of inviting an organization that provides services to people with autism. Sarah Blade, a double major in junior and classical biology, found out that ASI was invited to the fair from Instagram.

On August 21 of this year, autism advocates at Butler University issued a statement on Instagram as well as some stories about their concerns about ASI, their message and their values. On August 31, after contacting Career Services, the President and Vice President of Advocates for Autism as well as a representative from Student Disability Services, SDS, met with the Senior Director of the Career and Professional Success Office, Gary Beaulieu , to address their concerns.

At that meeting, they were told they would hear from him early in the week of September 6. But on Thursday September 9th, Vice President of Advocates for Autism, Madelin Snider emailed Beaulieu, who then told him that he would like to speak to them again the week of September 13th. Snider said Beaulieu had not mentioned if he would discuss his decision.

Blade, Snider and Vandermeulen said Butler must have clear and open communication with minority groups when inviting organizations to campus. They said it’s important to make sure Butler doesn’t invite organizations with potentially dangerous values ​​and programs.

Scott Sinclair, a double major in actuarial science and statistics and treasurer of Advocates for Autism, said he found out that ASI was invited to the Big Dawg Fair during a meeting at Starbucks.

“We were looking for organizations that would be present at the Big Dawg Career Fair,” said Sinclair. “… We looked for who the organizations were and we found this organization called ASI or Autism Society of Indiana. … We researched what their information was, what their past history was and what they represented. They had some general generalizations on their website, but if you dig deeper you saw that they had a list of ABA centers that they would refer their clients to.

ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis and it is one of the first things listed under ASI Resources for people recently diagnosed with autism. The main goal of therapy is to change the behavior of the autistic person. There is a great debate in the autistic community as to whether ABA is effective or even ethical because it uses aversive.

Blade also expressed his feelings that Advocates for Autism was not approached.

“I feel like in society we kind of have this culture of not listening to people with autism, or just assuming every organization for autism is good,” Blade said. “… it just felt weird that we had an autism organization on campus and no one thought about asking like, ‘Hey, this is a good organization, isn’t it? “…[And] even like when we said, ‘hey, this is worrying’ i feel like the actions have been very slow, which was disappointing. ”

Some autistic students have expressed frustration that they were not consulted in the decision to bring the group to campus. Sinclair has expressed his concerns about ASI’s invitation to campus and that it is an unfortunate situation, but he understands how this situation came about and why Beaulieu might need more time to make a decision.

“Because of all the debate and controversy surrounding this whole situation, it makes sense that the decision will take longer than it has,” Sinclair said. “I mean, if he could give us a little more information, such as communicating what he needs more time with,… that would be helpful, but I understand why he is taking a long time and what It’s also an indication that he’s taking it seriously, which I think is also a very important and good thing.

Before ASI decided not to attend the Big Dawg Career Fair, Advocates for Autism had planned to demonstrate peacefully.

Snider said this situation will hopefully change the way Butler handles decisions that impact students with disabilities.

“I guess I just want this situation to be kind of an example for the whole university of how they need to be more diligent, like how they interact with people with disabilities on campus and how they think of people with disabilities on campus, ”Snider mentioned. “Because they might think we’re okay with what’s going on… but we see the problems in college and we’re going to do everything we can to fix them. ”



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