Podcast | Wake. Bake. Caffeinate. Ep. 2: Why Does The “Autism Market” Exclude Autistic People?

TW: eugenics, functioning labels, ableism, abuse, functioning labels, Autistic conversion therapy, and more. 




Down in the Rabbit Hole with me today is Billy Mann. 

Billy Mann

Oh my. You get started researching on Billy Mann, titles bullshit here, and his ‘advocacy’ for autism … and well, that’s a long, long fall into ableism, privilege, and dehumanization of autistics  oozed thick with stigma. 

Who is Billy Mann? And why is he at the bottom of this rabbit hole?

Well, Billy Mann is an incredible song writer, record producer, creative executive and music publisher. He’s also a father to two Autistic children. And now, this is where it gets … ugh.

Billy Mann is also an Autism Speaks board member. He’s most proud of the phil-anthropy  he’s done to help get autism legislation passed. He’s said that more than any awarded or plaques, his proudest achievement was standing in the Oval Office watching President Obama sign an autism funding bill into law and then hand his son the pen.

This would be the bill Autism Speaks was so instrumental in getting passed. This bill was originally called the Combating Autism Act signed in 2006, and again in 2011. In 2014 it was renamed the Autism Cares Act and resigned, and then again in 2019.

Billy Mann is well known in the Autistic community as one of the creators of one of the worst propaganda films Autism Speaks ever published, called “I Am Autism.” That video set off a wave of stigma and awful Autistics are still fighting today. 

Mann has been awful to autistic activists over the years, but when the roar of the Autistic civil rights movement couldn’t be silenced anymore, Mann wrote the autism community an apology letter.

Yes, you heard that right, the ‘autism community’ not the ‘autistic community.’ Anyhow, it was a giant #sorrynotsorry lip service tribute that looked like it was done to quell parents of Autistics asking Autism Speaks uncomfortable questions about their history and tactics. In 2019 – before we get to that, I’m going to share part of an article from time magazine published on : http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1935959,00.html

Friday nov 6, 2009

The letter can be read in full on international badassactivists.org. Find Billy Mann’s page under Autistic History sub-section titled Celebrities & Stigma. Or find it by doing a keyword search.

In that apology  letter, Mann stated:

And I realized that after years of caring, not caring, rationalizing and spinning, “I Am Autism” was not my best most balanced moment. It was honest. But should it have been highlighted as anything more than just that: a dad in pain expressing his unique autism experience? 

The answer to that is NO. Billy Mann is not just some dad expressing his pain. He sits on the board of the organization that actively has silenced autistics since 2005, is the largest private backer of autism research in the nation, and his influence is felt in every public and government organization related to autism. He’s part of the board who created an ‘autism epidemic’ to generate donations and save a ‘generation of lost’ children. 

He did this knowing autistic activists existed and were fighting the tragedy marketing and abusive therapies he and the rest of the board at Autism Speaks were pushing. Yeah, no. Not just some average dad. Sorry, I call bullshit on that.

And even after he wrote this apology letter on facebook, Mann refused to acknowledge responsibility for the harm he caused a generation of Autistics, maybe two generations now, with his ‘advocacy’ work.

He wouldn’t even show respect to the autistics who tried to advocate the harm it had caused them growing up. Mann can’t fathom, I suppose, the harm he caused all of Autistics out here, even us Autistic parents raising Autistic kids suffered greatly from the stigma of it.

But Billy Mann didn’t change his patterns. Nope.when Autistics spoke up in regards to that apology, The Man just quadrupled down on the bullshit. So, if you want to deep dive down that rabbit hole, let me help you on your journey.

Oh, bonus, if you look on that page you can find an archived Wake. Bake. Caffeinate. Livestream video that focused on Billy Mann’s #SorryNotSorry apology … while I was live-streaming, Mann dirty deleted his facebook post, including all the commentary by autistics and our allies.

But no worries, because you know, we got screens documenting the entire event available for anyone to see. You can find a copy of those over on Amanda Seigler’s blog at fierceautie.com or jump to them from the link on Billy Mann’s page on InternationalBadassActivists.org.

Well, I hope that helps your journey. But remember, this is a rabbit hole. Jump in at your own risk. 😉 – Eve Reiland

‘I Am Autism’: An Advocacy Video Sparks Protest Via Time Magazine.

I Am Autism Author Billy Mann Makes An Apology As An Autism Speaks Board Member via Fierce Autie.

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