Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Letter I've Written

photo credit-JasonRogersFooDogGiraffeBee's photostream
creative commons license

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:


Dear Sirs/Madams:

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.



As ABFH was kind enough to point out, the address of the York, PA ASA chapter is:

And the contact person is Amy Wallace.


dragon knitter said...

well-said, from the parent of another child in the autism spectrum.

Clay said...

Well said, from a well-documented autistic. Thanks, Joe!

Unknown said...

Ooo, nice!

Just so you know, since your last post the Announcement about the Launch of the billboards has disappeared from their website. Interesting, though pending further developments.

Bev said...

Thank you, Joe!

Casdok said...

Glad you did this. Well said.
Look forward to reading the reply!

Unknown said...

Dear Friends in the Autism Community,

Regretfully it has been brought to the attention of the Autism Society of America – York Chapter – that our recent billboard campaign has caused undesirable confusion within the community. The intention of the billboard campaign was aimed at generating awareness to the general public and was in no way created to cause a malicious stir within the community. As a parent of a severely affected nine year old with Autism I can truly understand your passion regarding advocacy and respect for our children.

We thank you for your thoughts and concerns. I apologize for the misunderstanding and want you to know we will promptly remove the billboard posting.

Respectfully yours,

Amy Wallace
President ASA York