I've been granted permission to share a recent email I received from Professor Baron-Cohen of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University regarding the current advertising campaign by Action for Children:
"Whilst I support any efforts to help children with autism and to alleviate suffering, I hope there will be more thought given to both the language and the imagery we use, to avoid risk of offence. For example, the name of the charity DAN contains the word "Defeat", as if autism is a disease like cancer against which we have to wage war. Autism is a complex mix of disability and strength, and whilst we need to work to find imaginative ways to reduce the disabling aspects, we do not wish to "defeat autism" since this would also eliminate the positive aspects. The latter include an excellent attention to detail, excellent memory for detail, and the ability to focus for long periods on a narrow topic. These features are not just seen in the high-functioning individuals or those with Asperger Syndrome but are seen right across the autistic spectrum. Sometimes these positive aspects can result in remarkable talents.
We need to work to get the balance right, between using treatments for those aspects of autism that need treatment (such as the language difficulties, the epilepsy, the self-injury, the gut issues, or the learning difficulties) and encouraging those aspects of autism that do not need treatment and are special, so that the person can fulfil their potential. An image of a child as a demon in an ad campaign is equally unhelpful if we are to educate the public about autism. These issues, about language and imagery, are important if we take seriously the notion of neurodiversity, and wish to show respect towards those who are neurotypical and neuroatypical."
There is nothing I can add to this but my thanks to Professor Baron-Cohen for adding his voice to those of Professor Tony Attwood, Dr Mitzi Waltz, and renowned authors like Professor Roy Grinker, Donna Williams and Barbara Jacobs, who have all publicly demonstrated their objections to this unethical, misrepresentative and damaging ad.