April update

Time for a quick roundup.
The CDC released the new autism rates right before April. The rate appears to be 1:68. Predictably, antivaxx groups are in a tizzy and arguing that this is proof that vaccines cause autism, never mind that the vaccine schedule has been steady for quite a few years now.
April is Autism Awareness month. Boycott Autism Speaks has kicked into high gear and is now petitioning sponsors of Autism Speaks to rethink their funding.
Lastly, some good news. The restaurant chain Chili’s periodically donates 10% of a day’s take to a charitable cause. Chili’s decided to have the National Autism Association as its recipient for April 7.
Despite its name, the NAA, like Age of Autism, is an antivaccination organisation masquerading as an autism advocacy one. When Chili’s announced the news, there was an outcry, with people urging them to reconsider.
Taken by surprise, Chili’s first responded with this comment on its Facebook page:

At Chili’s Grill & Bar, we’re about making every guest feel special and pride ourselves in giving back to our communities. When choosing a charitable partner for our Give Back Events, both locally and nationally, we are committed to supporting organizations dedicated to helping children and their families. The intent of this fundraiser was not to express a view on this matter, but rather to support the families affected by autism. Our choice to partner with the National Autism Association was based on the percentage of donations that would go directly to providing financial assistance to families and supporting programs that aid the development and safety of children with autism.

That vacuous and platitudinous response fooled nobody. The pressure continued, and finally Chili’s acquiesced.

Chili’s is committed to giving back to the communities in which our guests live and work through local and national Give Back Events. While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, we are canceling Monday’s Give Back Event based on the feedback we heard from our guests.
We believe autism awareness continues to be an important cause to our guests and team members, and we will find another way to support this worthy effort in the future with again our sole intention being to help families affected by autism. At Chili’s, we want to make every guest feel special and we thank all of our loyal guests for your thoughtful questions and comments.

It looks like Chili’s decided to do something nice for Autism Awareness month, and chose to donate to an organisation that on the face of it supported autistics without doing proper research into the NAA. When the backlash occurred, Chili’s was taken completely by surprise and tried to placate the critics. When the anger continued, somebody investigated and found out that the NAA wasn’t quite what it claimed to be.
The NAA was rather upset at losing out on the donation, and has denied that it is antivaccine, even claiming that its website was out of date when it was pointed out that said website stated the vaccine causation theory. It has since emerged that the NAA is sponsoring a conference named “Give Autism a chance”. Featured speakers include Andrew Wakefield, Arthur Krigsman, Polly Tommey and Kim Stagliano. Three well known antivaccinationists and the man who cooked data to build a case that the MMR causes autism. I hate to be a bromide, but if it perambulates like an anatidaeid and vocalises like an anatidaeid…
There is a lesson here for all corporates: thoroughly check out any charity to which you intend to give a donation. The potential for embarrassment is high.
One pleasing fact has emerged from the fiasco, however. A few years ago, a donation like this to the NAA would have been protested, but not strongly enough to stop it. Today, there is enough awareness of the harm that organisations like the NAA do that the outrage forced Chili’s to change its plans.
The tide appears to be turning against antivaxxers.

About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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