Beyond UNFATHOMABLE: NYU Child Study Center’s Troubling “Rescue Me” Ad Campaign
I’m going to quote Kristina Chew at length here but there’s so much more to read in two of her posts on the subject and at the many links she provides:
“A number of readers (have) expressed at least disagreement and often outrage at the New York University Child Study Center soon-to-be-launched Ransom Notes public awareness campaign, whose message is that millions of children are held hostage by psychiatric disorders. Billboards and advertisements in magazines (including New York Magazine, Newsweek, Parents, Education Update and Mental Health News) and in kiosks will start appearing in January. The ‘Ransom Notes’ campaign is provided pro bono by…a worldwide advertising agency network with headquarters in New York…the shock value ads—which are designed to look like an actual ransom note and signed ‘Autism’ or ‘Asperger Syndrome’ or ‘ADHD’—are designed to startle, alarm, threaten, and get people to do something (hand over the ransom, er, donation, is my assumption).
“How we talk about autism—how we talk about autistic persons—directly impacts on how…people think about autism and how they perceive and act towards autistic persons. Implying that an autistic child is like a child who has been kidnapped—is a child who has been kidnapped—recalls older stereotypes of autistic children as ‘caught’ and ‘imprisoned’ in an ‘autistic shell,’ their real (normal) self ‘trapped’ inside.
“The notion that a child’s true and actual, normal self has been stolen away by some disorder (autism) is harmful to how other people perceive and treat my autistic son. The image of autism promoted by the ‘Ransom Notes’ campaign is purely negative and can only result in people seeing autism in general and my autistic son in particular in a highly negative light.
“This is a ‘public awareness’ campaign that makes the public aware only of one very dark aspect of being an autistic person and of raising an autistic child. Spend a day in our household and, while you will witness more than a few moments of anxiety, fretfulness, and a bit of noise, I hope you might most of all sense my son’s limitless desire to do his best, to struggle through his worries, and to smile and speak in half-echoed snatches of phrases—his patience and his constant efforts to try and try harder. I hope you might most of all sense what (my husband) and I feel always for (our son) and our small family: unconditional love, faith in each other, and effervescent hope.”
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