A #GivingTuesday Silicon Valley Call Out

Photo © Misko | Flickr/Creative Commons
[image: The donations receptacle at the British Museum.]
It's #GivingTuesday everywhere, including right here in Silicon Valley. And while I'm sure the drivers of all those brand-new Teslas, BMWs, and other shiny cars whizzing around my local streets are being extra-philanthropic today in keeping with the Valley's ethos of social service, mindful giving, and finding the Very Best Charity for one's donationeering, there's one area in which I see a big black financial hole coupled with a need for innovation: Championing of struggling autism non-profits, especially local or smaller-scale ones.

The reasons this gap exists are many, and mostly based in misconceptions and discomfort: Autism is not considered as sexy as other causes, so, being involved with a smaller-scale autism organization is perhaps not so shiny a cap-feather. Also, thanks to decades of pity-engorged campaigns like Jerry's Kids, disability-based charity efforts can be considered maudlin, or dehumanizing—approaches Silicon Valley types shun (rightfully so, in the latter case).

And then, frankly, there's the fact that just talking about, let alone being involved with, autism and disability makes many people uncomfortable, and the assumption that only family members get involved with autism causes. Even though autistic people found, run, and staff their own orgs. Even though autistic people are just people, and have always been here. Even though most of us will likely become disabled if we aren't already, and if live long enough. And even though, most significantly, Silicon Valley is an autism epicenter for autistic individuals both diagnosed and un-, who have a tendency to meet and mate and create more autistic individuals with diverse abilities and support needs.

My son Leo with NeuroTribes author Steve Silberman, 
whose article The Geek Syndrome discussed autism in SV.
[image: White teen boy and white man posing with each
other in Golden Gate Park.]
So how can Silicon Valley start participating and investing in more autism-oriented philanthropy, and taking care of its autistic own? Because autism philanthropy certainly can be done properly.

May I suggest that, the next time one of you exuberantly talented Silicon Valley balls-of-energy-and-brainpower decides to make the world a better place, and realizes that working with or donating to an autism org is a good way to do that, you follow this path:

1) Donate to, or get on or consult for the board of a local autism organization or school. Many (though not all) of these organizations are constantly scrambling for funds, and/or have boards that are underpowered, in terms of connections, energy, and influence. Levering your innovation savvy and connections to strategize new success pathways could Do. So. Much. Good. (As would coaxing other associates of yours to join or consult with those boards, or donate to related causes.)

2) Back up and do some research into how the autistic community tends to think about itself and its innate diversity, what are the most helpful ways to think about meeting autistic needs, what autistic people themselves actually want from life, where they want (and don't want) to live, what they would have wanted as kids, and what they want from autism research. Consider avoiding the mistakes well-meaning and progressive people tend to make when they support autism causes, how the Road to Hell is paved, all that. And please avoid supporting organizations that fundamentally disrespect autistic people (feel free to ask, if you are unsure).

3) Choose an organization to support, like these fine options (about which I am completely biased; the latter two are local, and all links are to their donation pages):
  • The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network: A-List autistic butt-kickers who fight for policy, law, and social change.
  • NOS Magazine: The only autistic-run media current events and topics magazine; features both snark and hard research enough for skeptics of all stripes.
  • The Morgan Autism Center: Leo's school, which still needs help to upgrade its new facilities.
  • Via West: Leo's camp, which in the wake of the recent regional fires wants to install even more safeguards to protect its campers.
Feel free to list additional worthy orgs in the comments. And please please PLEASE get involved, if you can!

1 comment:

  1. I would also donate to Neurodiversity and Autism Acceptance libraries.


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