by Becky Wilkerson,
LONDON – Action for Children’s high-profile TV ad campaign has been slammed by a coalition of disability rights campaigners, people with autism, their parents
and specialists, who have called for its withdrawal.
The group claims the ad is an inaccurate and unethical portrayal of those with autism and has demanded that the charity consult with disability advocates
before running future campaigns.
The ad features a young boy, Dan, talking about his experiences of living with autism and how Action for Children helped him with behavioural problems,
in particular, his tendency to lash out at those who insulted him. It uses an animation to portray him as trapped inside a rampaging monster until the
charity intervenes, after which he emerges as a vulnerable young man.
The coalition claims the ad implies that autistic children are monstrous and lays the blame on the child for lashing out, rather than on the bullies.
More than 2000 people have joined a Facebook group to protest and about 50 people have complained about the ad to the ASA.
The campaigners said they did not question Action for Children’s motivations, but that its approach was liable to increase stigma around the condition and
Responding to the criticism, Action for Children said: ‘Dan approved the concept and drawings, which depict how he saw himself and what he felt he needed
help with. The animation in the ad is a representation of Dan’s feelings of anger and frustration, not of autism.
‘We do not believe that the experiences and perceptions articulated by Dan in the ad present autism as the problem.Rather, they highlight the avoidable
confusion and difficulties experienced when the support that is needed – and people are entitled to – is not forthcoming. It is aimed at reinforcing the
positive effect of timely support.’