August 12, 2014

Build-a-bear-logoBuild-A-Bear Workshop has confirmed via Twitter that they are no longer partnering with Autism Speaks. The company has previously supported Autism Speaks by donating a percentage of sales on special bears created for Autism Awareness Month.

The official tweet read, “Hello to all! Yes, we have ended our partnership with Autism Speaks . – Cindy.”

Build-A-Bear Workshop did not elaborate on why they’ve chosen to end the partnership, but members of the group Boycott Autism Speaks expressed their approval via social media sites.

Recorded August 9, 2014
Taken from Twitter August 9, 2014

Boycott Autism Speaks is a group of autistic adults and other advocates who believe that Autism Speaks is a harmful organization. They object to the portrayal of autism as a disease that needs to be cured, that destroys lives and families. They dislike the way Autism Speaks appropriates the funds they raise, using them to research a “cure,” instead of supporting programs that could help individuals with autism live and work in their homes and communities.

They also object to the fact that Autism Speaks does not include any adults with autism on their board of directors. Author John Elder Robison was a member of the board, but he resigned after the release of a PSA describing autism as a thief who will “rob you of your child and your dreams.” Autism Daily Newscast’s report on this story can be found here.

Boycott Autism Speaks also objects to research that furthers the theory that vaccines cause autism, and to their support of the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, a facility that is currently under investigation by the FDA for using electric shocks as aversive therapy on individuals with autism.

The Boycott Autism Speaks website has a link to an online petition asking corporate partners to stop supporting Autism Speaks They have also encouraged other sponsors to end their partnerships with the organization, most recently Sesame Street Workshop.

CC BY-NC-ND by iFireDesign
CC BY-NC-ND by iFireDesign

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), is another organization who actively encourages members to boycott companies that partner with Autism Speaks. Their website contains a 2014 Joint Letter to the Sponsors of Autism Speaks, which can be used as a template for those who wish to contact these companies. You can find the full letter here

Build-A-Bear Workshop is just one of many companies who have partnered with Autism Speaks, and they have not officially given a reason for ending their relationship. Whether other sponsors will follow suit remains to be seen. What is clear is that there are strong feelings on both sides of this debate.

Autism Daily Newscast welcomes comments on this topic, particularly those who may support Autism Speaks and we encourage a healthy discussion.


About the author 

Laurel Joss

Laurel Joss is a freelance writer with a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked as an RDI® Program Certified Consultant and has published articles in Autism Spectrum Quarterly and on her blog She is a mother to two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. You can also follow her on and

  • This is a shame. Honestly. It is a fact that autism DOES destroy lives and families. Why does everyone want to pretend that this disorder is so hunky-dory??? It is most certainly not in our house. It HAS robbed my son of enjoying even the most simplest things in life. He is unable to express himself beyond a few rote phrases, self injures to the point of needing a helmet and drawing blood, cannot tolerate most outings beyond a few minutes, has not progressed more than a pre-academic level in school, and will need extensive life long assistance. He is 10yrs old. I love him immensely and will fight for him until the day I die; but I cannot pretend that this disorder has not wreaked havoc with him and our family. So people want more research on vaccines? That has been researched for how long now?? It would be nice if all that funding going towards researching something that has already been done and proven, goes back into providing more support for those who need it. My sons hours are getting cut, it is hard to get the things we need to keep him safe because the lack of funding, waiting lists for respite is a year long, companies cannot deal with issues severe kids have (can’t change diapers, can’t restrain from hurting himself…where does that leave us? With NO respite.), families having to move for better services, etc. It’s like everyone is pretending this part of autism just does not exist. At least AS brought awareness to what a lot of families indeed go through. They did not sugar coat this disorder like so many others.

    • Yet you support Autism Speaks? You know they are the ones that DO think that vaccines cause it. No one wants more research done on vaccines because it has been proven time and time again that it has NOTHING to do with Autism. Yet A$ continues to perpetuate this. They don’t give a damn about helping the day to day lives of those with Autism. That’s why most Autistics hate them. The fact that they make ALL of us out to be demons that need rescuing. The fact that most of their money doesn’t go to HELPING with stuff like what you mentioned, it goes towards finding a cure that most of us do not want and into their own pockets. The 2012 audit on their website shows that 14,000,000 went to salaries when they are supposed to be non profit. So yeah, no money should be going to them. It should be going to groups that actually want to help Autistics instead of destroying us. The ASAN is one of them. The Golden Hat Society is another. A$ doesn’t not care about Autistics, they care about making money and producing nothing but fear regarding Autism. Your child is not someone that should be feared. I am not someone that should be feared. A$ thinks that we are though. No one has said that it doesn’t affect families. We are saying that we are not a burden to our families. We are saying that we do not need a cure. We are saying that our parents have never thought of killing us (which someone in A$ has actually said they thought of doing). We do not need anything A$ has to offer. Oh and something else that A$ neglects to talk about? The fact that as we get older things CAN get easier. An Autistic that has been mute for 20 years can eventually start talking. Temple Grandin spent most of the beginning of her life without being able to talk. Besides, not being able to talk doesn’t need to stop anyone. Look up Amy Sequenzia, someone who is an outstanding person and an Autistic to look up to that A$ negelects to tell ANYONE about.

    • No, it’s people who think like you that are a shame. Autism Speaks is the most grossly, libelous misnamed organization ever to insult anybody with a DSM code because it never, ever speaks for the interests of the clients. If you support that organization, then you have a pitifully small heart and a limited, narrow mind. You care no more for those who are suffering because of their autism than you can appreciate the unique qualities which autistics are contributing to society. Where would this world be without Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, all who are on the Autism spectrum? Autistics are beautiful too, there’s Daryl Hanna. It’s true that they all spoke, but although Temple Grandin’s autism is particularly profound, I doubt very much that either her, modern agriculture, nor society have any regrets that she was born! It is scientifically surmisable that the above people were able to make their unique contributions only because they existed just as they did, and that to have altered their condition would have altered history for the worse, not the better. It’s a fact that the price they pay for their unique talents is dear, which is why they need your support, not pressure from you to change. If you have an autistic child and you feel so inconvenienced and embarrassed by him that all you want to do is change him instead of help him adapt, then parenthood for you was a criminal mistake!

    • Dear Amy:

      Why not go to one of the organizations made up of adult Autism survivors, and ask them what can be done to help your son? Having experienced the disability themselves, they can most like find far better solutions to your son’s problems than all the “experts” on the outside looking in.

  • Is everyone forgetting that AS is a big reason why a lot of insurers are required to cover ABA therapy? They are the ones lobbying in congress for all states to have mandated coverage-but I guess that does not matter right?? They were also a player in getting Tricare to cover ABA therapy for retirees’ children. Are these other organizations doing that??

  • i am glad actually. it is hard for me to support any company that supports that kind of organization, and i love build-a-bear. i do not have anything against autism parents, or the people who run AS, I am not pretending the bad parts of autism dont exist, and i recognize how hard parents can work to comunicate and to stop dangerous stims… i know there are many drawbacks, but as someone with autism i can tell you it is not just bad communication or selfharm/violent stims, and how hard or scary that is for a parent to not know how to comunicate or help. they are part of it but not all of it, it is part of everything.
    painting all the autism bad is painting something bad that affects every experience we have and every way we try to express ourselfs, good or bad, it is not all there is to us but it affects everything about us everything we experience.
    no one wants to bring something bad into there parents and friends lives, or be a bad person for there parents. hearing how you are constantly makes you feel horrible about yourself. autism speaks does this all the time. and i know they say person with autism to seperate us from the autism but it is not something we can seperate from ourselves, we can not take it off and put it somewhere else it is always there with us. i will not support autism speaks as long as they promote this self-hatred amongst autistics. if you need to badmouth something about, please make sure it is away from where autistics hear, read and see.
    and yes, many other organizations help autistics and have helped autistics gain access to therapies we need and comunication tools for those who use them (and not just ones that tell us even to stop stimming all together (which feels horrible, you do not get used to it) instead of just redirecting harmful stims or not stimming in dangerous situations. stimming lets out the frustration, stress, holding it in the way aba teaches you to should only be in situations where stims can be dangerous or where they actually are dangerous stims((which do exist, i recognize this))).

    i recognize now what people say when they “hate autism”, but when i was a child i didn’t, i thought i was bad when my autism upset people around me, and that was me, a verbal autistic who could tell her family she was trying, and BEFORE autism speaks made so many people speak negative about it.

    this is not a personal attack on anyone, especially not parents, as an adult i have worked with other autistics and their parents, and i really do understand why its scary for you and how much you want to be able to comunicate and protect your child from the harmful parts, as well as how hard you work trying to, but i also still remember what it is like to be the autistic child.

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