The nice lady at the cash register asked if I wanted to contribute to Autism Speaks. I replied by saying what many nice autistic people say when nice people ask if they want to contribute to Autism Speaks: "Uhhhh... Oh... Ahhhh..." After a moment I got a grip and said, in what I hope was a nice and friendly way, that I was autistic, and that I didn't support that organization, nor did one single other autistic person whom I know personally, and that I've heard the opinions of a great many autistic people on this.
Autism Speaks has been one of the major sources of the thoroughly-discredited belief that vaccines cause autism. As late as 2009, directors of Autism Speaks resigned because the organization refused to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus that there is no link between vaccination and autism.
Ironically, in view of its name, no members of the board of directors of Autism Speaks is autistic. This organization is not, as its name implies, autistic people speaking for themselves -- it's other people speaking for autistics, and getting a lot of things wrong.
Autism Speaks takes the positions that autism is a disease, and they are looking for a cure. I take the position that greater understanding will be of great benefit both to autistics and to those near to us -- greater understanding of autism on the part of the neurologically-typical, and vice-versa as well: greater understanding of the neurologically-typical on our part.
ASAN (Austistic Self Advocacy Network) is -- well, I can't improve upon the description on their webiste -- "a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for Autistic people. ASAN was created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the Autistic community, and does so by advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of Autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power while working to educate communities and improve public perceptions of autism. ASAN’s members and supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators and friends."
The next time Autism Speaks asks for your support -- and they seem to be everywhere these days -- please, look into ASAN instead.
And if you're still wondering just what exactly autism is -- again, I can't improve on ASAN. This page describes our condition very well.