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For the record: FAQs

See below to learn more about our positions on key topics.

In 2016, we refocused our mission to better serve the autistic people. We are dedicated to enhancing lives today and accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow by supporting and working with community partners; enhancing resources and services; increasing understanding, acceptance, and inclusion of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.    

Our vision is to build an inclusive Canada where autistic people can reach their full potential. 

Our impact enhancing lives today and accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow, across the spectrum and along the lifespan. 

Please see below for questions and answers about our work and positions on key topics.

If you have additional questions about Autism Speaks Canada, please reach out [email protected]  

Media inquiries can be submitted through an online form.

What is Autism Speaks Canada’s policy on person-first or identity-first language?

Autism Speaks Canada utilizes both identity-first language (autistic person) and person-first (person with autism). In 2019 we polled our community about their preference and heard that there’s no "one-size-fits-all" approach. For that reason, we always recommend respecting individual preferences and using the language that feels most comfortable to the person on the spectrum. For more information, please have a read through of our language guide.

How does Autism Speaks Canada help autistic people?

Our mission aims to address the life span and the spectrum – from those for whom autism may be a great strength, to those who require significant support. Research confirms that each person on the autism spectrum is unique, and our goal is to address their diverse needs and recognize their individual strengths.

Our mission objectives and work at Autism Speaks Canada takes into consideration the heterogeneity of autism. While we know we can’t be everything to everyone, we remain relentless in our commitment to promoting solutions across the spectrum and throughout the life span.

Here are just some of the ways Autism Speaks Canada is working to support people autistic Canadians and their families every day:

  • Increasing global understanding and acceptance through education, awareness, and inclusion. We use our Life on the Spectrum campaign to share authentic stories of autistic Canadians across the spectrum and throughout the life span. Learn More

  • Being a catalyst for life-enhancing research breakthroughs by investing in collaborative, open science that will bring about a future of more personalized treatments and therapies for those on the spectrum. We also fund research with more immediate impact for people who benefit from better treatments of medical conditions that often accompany autism, such as GI issues, sleep disorders, feeding disorders, anxiety, and seizures. Learn More

  • Increasing early childhood screening and timely intervention can improve a child’s overall development and future outcomes. Autism can reliably be diagnosed by age 2, but the average age of diagnosis in Canada is about 4.5 years old. We collaborate with leaders in the field to ensure sustainable and effective autism service delivery through our Community Grants. Learn More

  • Improving the transition to adulthood as 83% of adults with autism reported no employment income in the 2012 Canadian Survey of Disabilities. We must ensure that youth and adults have access to services and resources through the transition to adulthood and into senior-hood. Learn More

  • Ensuring access to reliable information and services throughout the life span by continuing to expand our My Autism Guide and Autism Response Team’s reach, technical skills, and knowledge to provide more people– particularly in underserved areas and communities – access to resources, information, and support from time of diagnosis through adult life. Learn More

What does Autism Speaks Canada fund?

All money raised in Canada, stays in Canada. Approximately 50% of our annual spending is directed towards awareness initiatives, national collaborations, and supports and services, improving the quality of life of autistic Canadians and their families. The remaining 50% of our annual spending is directed towards research breakthroughs, leading us to better and personalized health care. Autism Speaks Canada is enhancing lives today and accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow. For more information, have a look at our Audited Financial reports.

How has Autism Speaks Canada evolved over the years?

Autism Speaks was founded in 2005, in the U.S., with Autism Speaks Canada becoming incorporated a year later. At that time, less was known about autism and the way it impacts people’s lives. In fact, in 2005 the prevalence of autism was 1 in 166, today the prevalence is 1 in 66 children and youth in Canada has an autism diagnosis.

An autism diagnosis can affect the ways in which people learn, think, and problem-solve. Some people with autism may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and live entirely independently.

In 2016, we refocused our mission to better serve the autism community and to reflect what Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada represents today. We approach each of our mission objectives with the intent to make the most meaningful impact for the most people represented in the autism community.

We have listened carefully to both our supporters as well as our critics. We acknowledge that some ideas shared have hurt some people, we apologize for any harm we may have caused. All points of view are important. Those expressed by autistic people, as well as those that advocate for people with autism who cannot advocate for themselves. We have learnt a lot, we have made changes and we are continuing to learn – about autism, the evolving needs of the autism community and how we can support autistic Canadians across the spectrum and along the life span.

We hope that some of the fragmentation in the community can eventually be replaced with a shared commitment to creating an inclusive Canada where autistic people can reach their full potential.

Why did Autism Speaks Canada remove “cure” from its mission and research?

In 2016, the word “cure” was very deliberately removed from our mission statement and the work that we do. Today, Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada is committed to personalized healthcare, and helping to ensure the right services, supports and resources are equitably available to people with autism and their families across Canada.

Why Autism Speaks removed the “I am Autism” video

“I Am Autism” was a mistake and the video was removed from our channels shortly after it was posted, in 2009. We apologize for the video and the harm it may have caused. Since 2009 we have not shared or distributed the video. We are aware that the video is still being posted and shared today by others as an example of our current campaigns and messaging – which it is not. We ask others to stop sharing the video.

We are focused on supporting autistic people across the spectrum and along the life span, so that ultimately, they can lead their most meaningful lives - of their choosing. Our public service campaigns and marketing efforts reflect this focus. Life on the Spectrum

What is the significance of the puzzle piece logo?

The puzzle piece has long been a symbol associated with autism, long before Autism Speaks Canada was founded, and it means many different things to different people. For some, we hear it represents hope for increasing our understanding of autism and the many other issues linked with autism like sleep issues, GI issues, anxiety, seizures and more.

Whatever the puzzle piece means to you, we believe that our updated, more colorful puzzle piece, represents inclusivity and optimism as we look toward a future of progress for those on the autism spectrum. Learn More

What is the goal of Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada’s funded genetic research?

Our work in genetics exists to better understand the many subtypes of autism and lead to more personalized and precision healthcare. Over the last two decades, Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada has made significant investments in the field of autism research and treatment through our genomic initiatives, AGRE and MSSNG and PATH. These efforts have allowed the field to utilize whole genome sequencing in autism to unlock DNA secrets and guide new understandings and treatment targets. With the support of our scientific and philanthropic partners, AGRE and MSSNG and PATH have made many contributions to the field of autism research. Learn More

What is Autism Speaks Canada’s position on eugenics?

Autism Speaks Canada does not support eugenics. Our research in the genomics field (via AGRE, MSSNG, and PATH) exists to help advance the field so that ultimately autistic people have access to personalized, precision care.

How does Autism Speaks Canada represent the autism community within board and staff?

We employ and engage autistic people, parents, and family members and friends of people with autism as well as professionals who have experience and knowledge of autism. Some autistic employees and volunteers choose to disclose their autism while others do not. Their voices are represented across employee and volunteer sectors across Autism Speaks Canada including at representation on our board. Learn More About Our Autistic Board of Directors

Because we want to represent the breadth of the spectrum and a diversity of experiences, it’s important to remember that some people with autism are unable to advocate for themselves, while others can do so easily. We work diligently to ensure all people are heard and strive to be representative of the diversity of the autism communities.

Autistic adults serve as directors on the board of directors and as advisors in our decision-making process for grants, programs, resources, and partnerships. Autistic employees, consultants, and vendors are included in the development and implementation of initiatives.

We continue to identify new opportunities throughout the organization to reflect our evolving efforts for greater inclusivity. We comply with the Employment Equity Act and provide equal employment opportunities for all.

What is Autism Speaks Canada’s stance on awareness and acceptance?

Increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism is one of Autism Speaks Canada’s core mission objectives and part of our everyday work. We believe that awareness and acceptance are both crucial to building a better world for people on the spectrum, no matter their age, level of need or unique identity. While we fully support and work for acceptance, it cannot necessarily replace awareness. Universal awareness of autism does not exist globally or even in Canada.

What is Autism Speaks Canada stance on ABA (applied behavior analysis)?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) and therapies based on it, are evidence based and the most common behavioral interventions for autism. ABA refers to a set of principles based on the science of learning and behavior. Studies of interventions based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) show when implemented properly it can lead to improvements in IQ, adaptive behavior, communication skills, social skills, and a reduction in challenging behaviors. ABA applies researchers’ understanding of how behavior works to real-life situations. ABA programs should be individualized to each person to increase skills or behaviors that are helpful and decrease those that are harmful or hinder learning. It should never be applied simply to “train out” individual differences or personality traits. Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies in ABA.

Evidence of the effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

LeBlanc, L. A., & Gillis, J. (2012). Behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 59, 147-164.

Schreibman, L., Dawson, G., Stahmer, A., Landa, R., Rogers, S., McGee, G., Kasari, C., Ingersoll, B., Kaiser, A., Bruinsma, Y., McNerney, E., Wetherby, A., & Halladay, A. (2015). Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions: Empirically Validated Treatments for Autism

Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(8), 2411-2428.

Get more information about ABA.

What is Autism Speaks Canada’s position on vaccines?

Vaccines do not cause autism.

What is Autism Speaks Canada’s position on autism interventions?

Autism Speaks Canada supports the use of evidence-based interventions. Evidence-based interventions for autism are interventions or treatments that have been carefully researched and show consistent expected outcomes based on empirical data. Evidence-based interventions for autism provide the best opportunity for positive outcomes.

Links for reference:

What is Autism Speaks Canada’s position on non-evidence-based practices or interventions?

Autism Speaks Canada does not support non-evidence-based practices or interventions. Unfortunately, there are several interventions that are positioned as “autism treatments” or “cures” that could be potentially harmful or exploitative of resources. Unfortunately, these “treatments” or “cures” are easy to find on the internet and sometimes specifically target newly diagnosed families.

These may include:

  • Bleach cures
  • Hyperbaric chambers
  • Aversion Therapy
  • Chelation
  • Biofeedback
  • Supplements
  • Electric Shock
  • Stem cell therapy

Does autism cause violent behavior?

Research has found no evidence that people on the autism spectrum are more violent than the general population. In fact, teens and adults with autism are more likely to be the victims of crime. A good source for a broad review of the literature on autism and violence is available here. We know that speculation and misinformation about autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities have hurtful and lasting consequences. We stay committed to increasing understanding and acceptance of autistic Canadians because misconceptions about autism or any other neurological disabilities can lead to increased stigmatization and prejudice toward peaceful and productive members of society.

Have more questions?

Please contact us — we’d love to hear from you!

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