Autism community reaction to Liz Feld stepping down from her post as President of Autism Speaks

Liz Feld

image taken from twitter

Monday it was announced that Liz Feld, President of Autism Speaks is to step down from her role. Interestingly enough, no official press release has been issued by Autism Speaks, but Disability Scoop ran the story which can be read here. Nor has Feld made any comments on Twitter.

In a statement Liz Feld told that she will, “stay on as president through June 2016 and the nonprofit is now searching for her replacement”.

She further adds:

 “I am making this announcement now in the interest of providing the board of directors and the organization the opportunity for a responsible and successful leadership transition. I remain focused on ensuring solid success for our critical projects and initiatives in the months ahead.”

What is more interesting though, is why Feld has decided to step down, and why at this particular time? Surely it is no coincidence that she made the decision only a week after her public and very personal response to author, Steve Silberman’s Op-Ed article, Autism Speaks needs to do a lot more listening.

He wrote: “Imagine a world in which the leadership of the NAACP was all-white; now consider that not a single autistic person serves on the board of Autism Speaks,”

To which Feld responded with her blog entitled, ‘A Call for Unity’, in which she voiced the following response about the article being  a,”disservice to the millions of people who have both supported and relied on Autism Speaks over the last ten years. In fairness to these people, and to the countless volunteers and champions who have worked so hard to improve the lives of those affected by autism, it is important to set the record straight.”

Shannon Des Roches Rosa from The Thinking Persons Guide to Autism, responded with the following to Feld’s blog:

“Liz Feld may be the President of Autism Speaks, but her recent A Call for Unity letter is not exactly presidential. Admitting that one has made — and can learn from — misfires is not easy. It takes a lot of […] humility. […] I’m not going to hold my breath, though. Autism Speaks has a lot of apologizing to do. A lot. So until they start listening — something they’ve shown very little ability to do — the criticism will continue.”

Then further comments were made regarding Feld’s departure from her role as President, on the Thinking Persons Guide to Autism Facebook page:

‘What are some of your favorite equivalents to “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out? Liz Feld is leaving Autism Speaks, shortly after issuing a tone-deaf tirade against Steve Silberman’s Los Angeles Times critique of AS. Coincidence is not causation, of course.’

Others have also used social media in which to voice their opinions about Feld’s planned departure:


John Elder Robinson also tweeted that this may be an opportunity for change.


Further comments that were posted included:


It certainly appears on the surface that Liz Feld will not be missed. Is this time for change as many are speculating, or will she be replaced by somebody who is just a replica? Will the individual be autistic? I think the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim.

Having read Steve Silberman’s Op-Ed piece, I have to say that I am in agreement with him. Autism Speaks does not actually speak for autistic individuals. Instead they portray autism as something that needs to be cured and contained. Not a single member of the board is autistic. They do not speak for my son. I have made this point on many occasions. My latest article can be read here.

So it would appear that there is no great mourning at her loss. The only real question is why she is leaving and who will replace her? Only time will tell.


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About Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.


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