Monday, December 17, 2007

Beyond UNFATHOMABLE: NYU Child Study Center’s Troubling “Rescue Me” Ad Campaign

I first heard about this ad campaign from Kristen over at From Here to There and Back through e-mail. Last night I read more at Jen P’s Find Out What Jen Finds and (through her post) at Niksmom’s Maternal Instincts and Kristina Chew’s AutismVox blog. All these moms offer personal insights into why this ad campaign is misguided and hurtful. I encourage anyone interested not only in rights for children with special needs but in simply helping worthy causes in a very immediate way to read more about the “Rescue Me” campaign and sign the petition in support of the campaign’s immediate demise. As Niksmom puts it: “This is not an autism-only issue; it is a case of perpetuating negative and harmful stereotypes about numerous disorders which can impact a person’s life. Education must include a more holistic picture of the person impacted. My son is not his diagnoses.”

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.”

Go here to sign this important petition. If we don’t speak out for those who can’t, who will?

Photo © Best Syndication


Blogger kristen said...

Thank you for this, Karen. I hope your readers will take a minute to sign the petition. It's easy--two clicks and you're done--but so important.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Foresam said...

I think the ad campaign is great. It shows how horrible autism is which could lead to better treatments for our kids.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

I agree, Kristen!

Foresam, thanks so much for stopping by and posting your comment. I'm not a parent of a child with special needs, am new to current autism debates, and understand how complex they are. I also believe all children with medical and/or psychological conditions deserve the best treatments out there. While I agree widespread understanding is an important goal, I remain unconvinced that this particular ad campaign is a good way to draw attention to autism. The potential for misunderstanding seems much too high. K.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NEXT STEPS - they are not hearing us

They have not responded to our requests to pull the campaign and it sounds like we are really emboldening Harold Koplewicz and his boss, Robert Grossman, appears to be letting Koplewicz see the campaign through. I found some contacts that are over both of their heads and we need to promote a major emailing, writing and phone calling campaign to Medical Center Board Chairman Kenneth Langone, NYU President John Sexton, and NYU Trustee Chairman Martin Lipton. Here is their contact info; PLEASE help get the word out.

Kenneth Langone, Board Chairman
New York University Medical Center
(212) 421-2500
375 Park Avenue, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10152

Martin Lipton, Board of Trustee Chairman
New York University
(212) 403-1200
51 West 52nd Street, 29th Floor
New York, NY 10019

John Sexton, President
New York University
(212) 998-2345
70 Washington Square South, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10012

4:01 PM  
Blogger Special Needs Mama said...

Thanks so much for spreading the awareness. I think we need to keep going until this campaign is gone daddy gone...

5:20 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're welcome!

As far as the anonymous post, I hesitate to suggest any of those steps before the source of the information and the information itself are verified. Anonymous, if you'd identify yourself and the reasons for your concerns, I'd appreciate it! K.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Larramie said...

Although there are well-meaning people in this world, too many open their mouths before knowing ALL the facts as well as both sides -- or more -- of an issue.

The ad campaign muddies the truth about autism even more and unfairly burdens the children...*sigh*

6:53 PM  
Blogger Niksmom said...

Karen, thanks so much for lending your support to this important issue.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thank you for spreading the word about this dangerous and hurtful campaign. I hope the anonymous poster will provide some additional information. I would be happy to send out a few emails.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Larramie, Niksmom, and Lisa, thanks for stopping by and voicing your concerns. Lisa, I'd hoped Anonymous would be sure to comment or post again when I hear more news on all this. K.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Marla said...

Thank you for writing on this issue! Well done!

8:43 AM  
Blogger kristen said...

if you haven't heard, NYU pulled the ad campaign today. It's over--for now, at least. A good day.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Kristen, TERRIFIC news! Thanks so much for the update! K.

10:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home