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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 12220

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Publication type: media release

DISABILITY ADVOCATES: "WE ARE NOT FOR RANSOM" : National Disability Groups Seek End to N.Y.U. Child Study Center's Ad Campaign
ASAN - Autism Self Advocacy Network 2007 Dec 11

Full text:

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) pulled together disability rights advocates to speak with one voice today in protest of an N.Y.U. Child Study Center advertising campaign. The campaign,
entitled “Ransom Notes,” consisted of a series of phony ransom letters signed by a particular disability, announcing that “your child will pay” if the letter is ignored. In addition to portraying children as victims of kidnapping, the ads, which launched last week in print and on billboards and kiosks throughout New York City, also contained several examples of inaccurate information about the disabilities it claimed to portray, referring to children with disabilities as detriments to themselves and those around them.

Therefore, ASAN has spearheaded a campaign with a broad coalition of disability rights organizations to send a joint letter to the N.Y.U Child Study Center expressing their discontent with the “Ransom Notes” advertisement. The ASAN also asks people with disabilities, their
family members and others affected by disability to contact the N.Y.U. Child Study Center and the sponsors of the “Ransom Notes” campaigns.

“These ads are deeply destructive to individuals with disabilities, our families and our supporters,” said Ari Ne’eman, President of the ASAN.
“As a person on the autism spectrum myself, I am deeply offended by how N.Y.U. chose to mischaracterize my disability and those of others in the disability community.”

ASAN is a national, grassroots volunteer organization dedicated to increasing the representation of the autistic community in public policy and to increasing acceptance and support for people on the autism spectrum through changing public perceptions.

“There is a broad feeling of outrage about this sort of advertising,” said Zosia Zaks, a 38-year old author on the autism spectrum and a volunteer coordinator for ASAN’s letter-writing campaign. “I got involved because I feel that the disability community has to ensure that accurate,
respectful information is provided to the public. We have to help families, but not by fear and shame.”

Fourteen disability groups throughout North America have signed a letter calling on the N.Y.U. Child Study Center to withdraw its offensive advertising campaign. The letter, written by ASAN President Ari Ne’eman, tells the Child Study Center that, “By choosing to portray people on
the autism spectrum as well as those living with OCD, ADHD and other disabilities as kidnapped or possessed children, you have inadvertently reinforced many of the worst stereotypes that have prevented children and adults with disabilities from gaining inclusion, equality and full access to the services and supports they require.”

The organizations listed as signatories to the joint letter are: the Autistic Self Advocacy Network; ADAPT, the largest national grassroots activist organization of people with disabilities; TASH, a national organization of parents, self-advocates and professionals; the Autism Acceptance Project; Autism Network International; the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey; ADA Watch; the National Coalition for Disability Rights; Not Dead Yet; MOCEANS Center for Independent Living, the Alliance for Disabled in Action, Inc.; Next Step, Inc.; The Family Alliance to Stop Abuse and Neglect; the Asperger Association of New England and the Autism National Committee.

Sue Pniewsky, transition specialist with the MOCEANS Center for Independent Living said, “Children with disabilities deserve respect, understanding and acceptance, as do their “typical” peers, to reach their potential as full members of our community. Those providing services to children with disabilities must avoid outdated stereotypes and scare tactics in their relationships with the children, their families and the greater community.”

Parents and professionals have also joined the campaign to protest the Center’s offensive advertising. Kristina Chew, university professor and mother to a 10-year old boy on the autism spectrum said, “As a parent of an autistic child, I am deeply offended by this advertising.
Spreading fear and stigma only discourages families from seeking diagnosis. I hope that N.Y.U. pulls the campaign as soon as possible.”


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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909