Sunday, December 8, 2013

#BoycottAutismSpeaks: @HomeDepot

Dear Home Depot,

I wanted to share with you a story of Christmas past. A few years ago, my husband and I, a young couple then, were scrambling to find a Christmas tree. We didn't want much. Just something small to put on a table. Just something we could afford on our starting out life budget. Just something for Christmas. It was getting close to the holiday, and we had been to several tree stands, but no one had much of anything left, and certainly not any trees that we had the money for.

We pulled into Home Depot. It was dark by then. It was raining. Your staff helping customers with purchasing trees greeted us cheerily. They went out of their way to find our perfect tree, to no avail. Like the other stands, all of the smallest trees had already been sold. It seemed we were stuck. It seemed a little hopeless for Christmas. It seemed like we might not find a tree at all. That is not what happened.

What happened was that your wonderful Home Depot employees would not let us walk away empty handed. They worked together to find a larger tree that though had a well formed top half, also had a bare spot near the bottom. They offered to trim the tree shorter, and make it into the tree we could afford. We gladly accepted, knowing that it was likely unimportant to them to sell one more tree for such a large corporation as Home Depot, but that this gesture was very important to us. It was generous. It was the most beautiful little tree ever.

We were thankful.
We are still thankful, but the story does not end there.

Shortly thereafter, my husband got into the home remodeling trade. He began to shop at Home Depot several times a week. He learned quickly enough that after a few years he was able to start a small business. Your store became his favorite place, and again, your store was a place he could afford to shop for tools and materials while keeping this small business afloat, and believe me, my husband loves tools! He was there so often he made friends with many employees. They know his name at the register. He knows their names too.

Fast forward a few more years. What was once a young couple, now had a baby on the way. Most unexpected, one baby turned out to be two. Twins! My husband worked harder than ever, seven days a week, early mornings and late evenings, hoping to save enough money to keep our new family going should any complications arrive. We were warned that often twin mothers have to go on bed rest. Even in the best circumstances I would not be able to work for long and our expenses would be doubled. Fortunately, our twin sons were born perfectly healthy. They were the most beautiful little babies ever.

We were thankful.
We are still thankful, and the story goes on.

As unexpected as twins, soon we began noticing that our children were showing early signs of Autism. Sure enough, both boys are Autistic. At first, we were very afraid. We did not know a thing about Autism, and could not picture the lives ahead of us. I could no longer work to help support our family financially because our sons needed personalize care. Life in the present became a whirlwind of doctor appointments, and therapy, and paper work. We have done everything possible to ensure that our children have the tools they need to thrive. More than anything, we want them to be happy.

In those first days, when we were all so especially tender, my husband came home with a bag full of blue light bulbs. He was excited to show me that his favorite store was supporting families like ours. As you know, Autism Speaks has created a special day to "light it up blue" for Autism awareness, and the Home Depot has partnered with Autism Speaks to make these lights available to all. No, we didn't know much about Autism back then, but we felt a sense of community with those families who would be switching out white bulbs for blue. In front of our humble home, we lit two blue lights, one for each of our twin boys. We did so proudly, but that was back then.

We made a mistake.
We regret ever lighting it up blue.
We deeply regret giving our hard earned money to Autism Speaks.

I have taken the time to write our story here because your company means so much to us, and I need to tell you why we can no longer shop with you. Autism Speaks has harmed our family. We are not alone, they harm every family with Autistic children, and every Autistic adult too. The most recent display of their damaging ways, was co-founder Suzanne Wright's letter "A Call For Action." In this letter directed at our congress, she describes my Autistic children as a crisis, compares them to kidnapping victims, and gravely ill persons. She claims my family is not living, that we are merely existing in despair. She used my children and our family as a point of fear.

We are nothing of the sort.
We are a beautiful, loving, family.
We do not want the world to be afraid of us, but rather accept and appreciate us.

Again, this is one incident Autism Speaks' history of causing far more harm than good. Autistic people themselves have an equally long history of protesting this organization. Why would Autism Speaks be opposed by the very people who they claim to help? Is it because Autistic people do not want to be treated like a health crisis, be seen as burden to their families, or be thought of as a person who needs to be cured? Is it because they have never actually received help for Autism Speaks? Is it because they do need support, but not by way of describing them as tragedy? Autistic people want their voices to be heard. To my children's detriment, everyone is instead listening to Autism Speaks.

So this Christmas, I will not be buying a gift certificate for my husband to spend at Home Depot. I will not be bringing my joyful and lovely Autistic sons in to shop for their Daddy. My husband will be making arrangements to use your competitor, Lowes, as well as other locally owned businesses for his work. He will also have to explain this to his many customers, because they have supported Home Depot as well. Just like that first Christmas tree, the loss of our business is likely unimportant to such a large corporation like Home Depot, but it is of utter importance to us.

Please, make no mistakes, this is not something we want to do by any means. It is a loss of a relationship that we have had with your employees. It is a great challenge to find anything that compares to your availability of product and customer service. It is a financial burden for our family to stop shopping at your store. Autism Speaks' damaging work simply costs us more than money. It is our humanity they are taking. I ask you to serve us instead of this organization.

We cannot wait for you to end your sponsorship of Autism Speaks.
We will proudly resume shopping with you when you do.

I would be more than happy to discuss this matter further.

Thank you for all you have done in the past, and Merry Christmas!

Heather Clark

The preceding is a letter I have written to Home Depot, which is one of many companies that sponsors Autism Speaks. We will be delivering the letter in several ways, including hand delivering it to the five local Home Depots we use used. Our family stands firmly with the Autistic perspective, and firmly with the Boycott Autism Speaks project. For more information about this boycott, please visit us on Facebook, Twitter, and also sign the petition.


  1. I'm glad you posted this letter. I want to support the boycott of Autism Speaks, but I'm not sure I'm willing to stop shopping at The Home Depot. I appreciate that you admit this is a difficult decision for you. That's how I feel.

  2. This is wonderful. I know someone who works at Home Depot. This person is a valuable employee, but is also afraid to let his employer know that he is Autistic, because he fears losing his job. I wish they would back off of supporting Autism Speaks too.

  3. Excellent letter. I hope they read it. And I'm glad to have finally found your blog.