I know that in one sense, the York, PA ASA billboards that I wrote about in my last post pale in comparison to the ad campaign wrought by the NYU CSC in 2007. But that still doesn't mean that I can't attempt to change what I consider to be an insult to my son, as well as other autistic people.
So here is the text of the letter that I sent today:
As the father of a child on the autism spectrum, I am writing to express concern about the York, PA ASA chapter’s billboard campaign that associates autism with being kidnapped. I happened to notice one of your billboards while taking a vacation in Pennsylvania. This campaign is reminiscent of the 2007 Ransom Notes campaign that was undertaken (and subsequently removed) by the NYU Child Study Center in New York City.
Comparing people with autism to those who are kidnapped is not only factually wrong (my son hasn’t been kidnapped, he’s right here in front of me), but is demeaning and offensive to those who are autistic. Rather than “creating awareness”, I can only see the logical end result of such an ad campaign be one of creating fear, misunderstanding, and disrespect towards those who are autistic.
In Medieval folklore the image of a changeling was used to describe children with then misunderstood medical disorders or developmental disabilities. Fairies or trolls were thought to have kidnapped the “normal child” and left the changeling in its place. One would think that in the 21st century we could get past such folklore, and deal with reality.
Putting up ads that show such disrespect towards autistics will certainly not result in greater acceptance and integration in either the school environment or the community. As an organization that ostensibly has been set up to serve the needs of the autistic community, I urge you to immediately remove the ads. Furthermore, I strongly encourage you to consult with autistic self advocates before formulating future ad campaigns.
Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Me- Joe, husband of a great wife, and dad to two great kids, who were both adopted at birth.
Liz- My ever understanding wife, who manages to wear many hats (mom, advocate, therapist, teacher) for our kids.
Buddy Boy- Born in 2000. Funny, intelligent, inventive, and autistic. Loves machines.
Sweet Pea- Born in 2002. Typical little sister. Competitive, outgoing, and smart. Loves anything pink.