Going back to the days of Cure Autism Now in the late 90's and early 2000's, neurodiversity proponents have protested research into the genetics of autism, claiming that it would result in a prenatal test that would lead to mass abortions of autistic fetuses, such as what takes place with Down's syndrome, spina bifida, and perhaps other conditions that are far easier to detect in utero.
Amanda Baggs and Laura Tisoncik, proprietors of autistics.org, had on the main page of their website a cartoon depicting a trashcan with the letters CAN written on it with an abortion clinic building in the background with a crude drawing supposed to represent an aborted autistic fetus with the caption "the real meaning of autism prevention". Ari Ne'eman has stated that he fears genetic research because it could lead to genetic testing. John Robison in a speech to IMFAR expressed concern that so many autistics he knew worried about these tests, though he acknowledged the possibility that it was the furthest thing from the genetic researchers mind. Meg Evans (writing under the pseudonym Bonnie Ventura) predicted in 2005 that in ten years' time there would be a prenatal test for autism. She proved to be a poor prophet.
Years later, Autism Speaks in collaboration with Google initiated the Mssng project to find missing autism genes and developed a database of autism genes which all researchers would access. This resulted in a flurry of protest on twitter and perhaps other social media. #notmissing hashtags popped up on neurodiversity tweets and John Elder Robison joined in the fray. Neurodiversity took offense to the notion that they could be missing and that Autism Speaks was somehow insulting them.
What's interesting is in that all of the years that Neurodiversity has been ranting and raving against CAN and then Autism Speaks, I've never heard a peep out of them about the Simons Foundation or the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.
James Simons is a mathematician who applied his research findings to the stock market and created an extremely lucrative hedge fund that averaged more than thirty-five percent annual returns. This, at least in part, resulted in him accumulating a net worth of around 17 billion dollars, making him the 88th richest man in the United States according to the latest Forbes 400 listing. He has an autistic daughter named Audrey who I think is in her twenties now and is at the milder end of the spectrum (anyone is welcome to correct me in the comments section if I'm wrong about this).
With his huge wealth he created a foundation in his name to do research in education, health and other matters. This included something called the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (abbreviated SFARI). Though Autism Speaks is a far more prominent and well-known organization than SFARI, Simons is a larger funder of research than AS is.
What is noteworthy is this story about SFARI's introducing the new genetic database which is certainly not dissimilar to the one that Autism Speaks created with Google's help and from neurodiversity's point of view could just as easily result in a prenatal test and abortion of autistic fetuses.
As can be seen from this ten year old article in the wall street journal Jim Simons gave geneticist Michael Wigler a nearly 14 million dollar research grant to find genetic causes of autism. They were also friendly, vacationing off the coast of Greenland together.
Wigler's (as well as colleague Jonathan Sebat's) research is interesting in that it seems to find that a fair amount of autism is caused not by genes that are adaptive and stay in the population, but in spontaneous mutations that are not inherited. This provides some evidence against the neurodiversity dictum that autistic genes stayed in the population because they offered some sort of advantage and that autism is a natural variation that has always stayed in the population, or that elimination of autism would result in a sort of genocide.
So, one has to ponder why neurodiversity is not at war with the Simons Foundation. Why aren't they calling out Jim Simons as a greedy tycoon who takes money away from autism communities, so that services, research on AAC, and other pet projects of ASAN aren't being done? This is a complaint that ASAN has lodged repeatedly against autism speaks.
Gadfly must concede that one of the differences between Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation is that in order to obtain revenue, autism speaks must engage in advertising. Some of this advertising has been offensive to those in the ND movement. They were angry about Allison Singer's dumb remarks about driving herself and her daughter off a bridge, they were angry at Suzanne Wright's statements that autism families were not really living (resulting in Robison's resignation from their science advisory board), and they were horrified at the I am Autism video. The Simons Foundation is independently wealthy thanks to all of Jim's billions and they don't need to engage in this sort of publicity so they won't provoke the ire of ASAN, GRASP, and the rest of ND.
One of the problems with this line of thought though, is that genetic research, particularly databases which all scientists will have access to, regardless of whether it is funded by Autism Speaks, the Simons Foundation or anyone else will have the same result. If Autism Speaks research could result in prenatal testing, so could Simons'. If Autism Speaks are a bunch of ogres who are ripping off the autism community, then Mr. Simons is just as culpable.
Or perhaps the real answer is that neurodiversity doesn't really care about the issues of genetics or prenatal selection. Perhaps they just have low self-esteem due to mental problems or this is just the type of people they are. Perhaps Autism Speaks' advertising only reminds them of what they hate in themselves.