We have your son.We are destroying his ability for social
interaction and driving him into a life of complete isolation. It’s up to
you now…Asperger’s Syndrome
The NYU Child Study Center has a new public education campaign designed to create awareness of psychiatric disorders. Ads appearing in magazines and on NYC billboards and kiosks are mock ransom notes signed by specific psychiatric disorders: ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, bulimia, depression and OCD. Here’s the ad for bulimia (Description: Cut and paste words from magazine text form a ransom note: “We have your daughter. We are forcing her to throw up after every meal she eats. It’s only going to get worse. –Bulimia” Below the note the ad says, “Don’t let a psychiatric disorder take your child” and gives info for the NYU Child Study Center.):
Text for the other ads reads:
We have your son. We will make sure he will no longer be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives. This is only the beginning…Autism.
We are in possession of your son. We are making him squirm and fidget until he is a detriment to himself and those around him. Ignore this and your kid will pay…ADHD
We have taken your son. We have imprisoned him in a maze of darkness with no hope of ever getting out. Do nothing and see what happens…Depression
We have your daughter. We are making her wash her hands until they are raw, everyday. This is only the beginning…OCD
The NYU Child Study Center, celebrating its tenth year and the relaunch of its public information website AboutOurKids.org, says:
The idea behind the “Ransom Notes” is that, all too often, untreated psychiatric disorders are holding our children hostage. These disorders rob children of the ability to learn, make and keep friends and enjoy life.
“Ransom Notes” may be shocking to some, but so are the statistics: suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24, and serious emotional problems affect one out of 10 young people, most of whom do not get help. The strong response to this campaign is evidence that our approach is working. We understand the challenges faced by individuals with these disorders and their families. We hope to both generate a national dialogue that will end the stigma surrounding childhood psychiatric disorders and advance the science, giving children the help they need and deserve. We want this campaign to be a wake up call. Please join the dialogue.
And people are joining the dialogue. The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) has gathered 14 other disability rights organizations and issued a joint letter (.pdf file) calling for withdrawal of the ad campaign. (There’s also a petition for anyone to sign in support of the ASAN joint letter and appeal.) In part, the letter reads:
While the “Ransom Notes” campaign was no doubt a well-intentioned effort to increase awareness and thus support for the disabilities it describes, the means through which it attempts this have the opposite effect. When a child with ADHD is described as “a detriment to himself and those around him,” it hurts the efforts of individuals, parents and families to ensure inclusion and equal access throughout society for people with disabilities. When individuals with diagnoses of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are told that their capacities for social interaction and independent living are completely destroyed, it hurts their efforts for respect, inclusion, and necessary supports by spreading misleading and inaccurate information about these neurologies. While it is true that there are many difficulties associated with the disabilities you describe, individuals with those diagnostic categories do succeed – not necessarily by becoming indistinguishable from their non-disabled peers – but by finding ways to maximize their unique abilities and potential on their own terms.
Individuals with disabilities are not replacements for normal children that are stolen away by the disability in question. They are whole people, deserving of the same rights, respect, and dignity afforded their peers. Too often, the idea that children with disabilities are less than human lies at the heart of horrific crimes committed against them.
The letter also notes that the ad campaign supports the idea that people with these psychiatric disorders — note that autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are labeled psychiatric disorders here — may be dangerous to others around them.
Does anyone else’s mind jump to Columbine-type scenarios when they see “children” and “hostage” linked? Mine did.
h/t to Stephen Drake at Not Dead Yet
Cross-posted at The Gimp Parade