Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is A Disability Holding Your Child For Ransom?

I don't know if you have seen any of these advertisements that have been offending people left and right, but the New York University Child Study Center had recently launched a campaign to raise awareness of children with undiagnosed and untreated psychiatric conditions. The campaign involved advertisements that were meant to look like ransom notes sent by the psychiatric conditions themselves. For instance, ADHD apparently wrote a note saying, "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."
Autism wrote this one: "We have your son.We will make sure he will not be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives. This is only the beginning. - Autism." And even Bulimia sent one: "We have your daughter. We are forcing her to throw up after every meal she eats. It’s only going to get worse. --Bulimia"
The campaign was meant to startle people into taking a closer look at their chlldren's mental health, and to show the dangers of just ignoring or denying the problems.
So why did it have so many people angry?
Well, for people who actually have these conditions, or have or work with children with these conditions, the ads put a dark, sad and hopeless spin on things.
Consider the mother with the four-year-old daughter who has recently been diagnosed with autism. She already knows all of the stereotypes and warnings about children with autism. But she also knows her kid, who sings to herself in her own made-up language as she eats her breakfast cereal every morning, who loves to cuddle with her mom every night before bed while hearing her very favorite bedtime story, who gets absolutely giddy with excitement when "Dora the Explorer" appears on the TV, who just learned to do a somersault... Does that mother really want to have to drive past a billboard that says that autism is holding her child hostage? Does she really want her neighbors, friends and relatives to see that sign, and associate it with her daughter? Does she want her daughter to have to see that sign, once she learns to read?
After the Child Study Center put out the ads, they received tons and tons of letters and emails from concerned people who pointed out that the ads were more likely to strike fear in parents' hearts than to convince them to look for help for their children.
If you were worried that your son might have depression, and you saw a sign that said, "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," wouldn't you just work harder to convince yourself that, no, this could not be happening to your child? Or perhaps, instead of launching your own campaign to save your child, as the ads were probably intended to inspire you to do, you might go into mourning for the hopeless life that seems to lie ahead of your kid.
To the relief of many, the Ransom Notes campaign has been cancelled. If you visit the Child Study Center website, you can see a note of explanation.
Did you ever see these ads, before they were cancelled? What did you think of them? Were some better or worse than others? Do you agree with the cancellation of the campaign? I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks!

1 comment:

abebech said...

This is really interesting -- I'm going to check it out and forward it to a friend in the field.