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Deconstruction | Autism Speaks PR: New Advertising Council Campaign Focuses On Autism

“Deconstruction of the Autism Speaks Press Releases” is a new series I’m starting in honor of “the month,” April 2021.

Each article in this series will take an Autism Speaks press release from the archives dated back to 2005 and use my Autistic perspective to break it down and illustrate the patterns I notice. These articles will be tagged “Deconstruction of Autism Speaks” and added to the Autistic History archives.

Press Release: February 6, 2006

New Advertising Council Campaign Focuses On Autism


Summary

Autism Speaks publishes a press release to announce their partnership with the Ad Council and their three-year focus on Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about autism on February 6, 2006.

The Ad Council is a private non-profit and trusted source of information with a 60 year history of delivering important messages to the American public. Autism Speaks has partnered with the Ad Council for this PSA campaign for a period of three years.

The Ad Council boasts, and rightly so, that their PSAs icons and slogans are woven into the fabric of American culture. You might recognize these: “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”and “Take A Bite Out Of Crime.” They also state they had received more than $1.7 billion in donated advertising time and space from media in 2005.

The merger of Autism Speaks with National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) mentioned in the press release’s bios makes Autism Speaks a powerful voice and influence in the United States. With this merger they have begun the monopoly on disseminating autism information and start in earnest their silencing of Autistic people.


Examples

Person First Language (PFL): A parent of a child with Autism.

Identify First Language (IFL): A parent of an Autistic child.


The Person First Language (PFL) used in the press release is a red flag that this organization is parent-led or professional-led and doesn’t include Autistics in a meaningful manner. 

The Autistic community uses Identity First Language (IFL). We identify as Autistic people. We have Autistic culture, Autistic community, and even Autistic humor. Organizations connected to the Autistic community show respect to our culture by using IFL.

Examples

Person First Language (PFL): A parent of a child with Autism.

Identify First Language (IFL): A parent of an Autistic child.

The press release uses the medical model deficit description of autism. The words early intervention, cure, treatment and prevention are speaking to eugenics (this is the prevention of birth for Autistics based on “autism risk”), Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), and other therapies.

Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.

ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.

The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work. 

What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.

The Autism Speaks press release uses tragedy and fear narrative to describe autism with descriptions like alarming, devastating disorder, and big increase in population. This type of marketing has been incredible in driving donations to “cure” autism.

It also includes dangerous influencers: Bob Wright, Suzanne Wright, and Alison Singer. With this partnership, the Ad Council becomes a dangerous influencer as well.

The press release continues to display the vast reach of the Autism Speaks Influence network that includes celebrities, media moguls, corporations, organizations, researchers, scientists, government entities, politicians, other autism professionals and more.

Quote:

Campaign To Be Created In Partnership with Autism Speaks

NEW YORK (February 6, 2006) – The Advertising Council and Autism Speaks today announced a new three-year public service advertising (PSA) campaign in support of autism awareness. The campaign, which is being created pro bono by BBDO, will focus on raising awareness of autism and on the importance of early intervention. The campaign is scheduled to premiere in March, 2006, and will run across all media channels including print, broadcast, cable, radio and Internet. 

The Breakdown

  • Autism Speaks has partnered with the Advertising Council (ADCouncil) to produce public service announcements (PSA) about autism.
  • Campaign was created pro bono by BBDO
  • PSAs will focus on early intervention and autism awareness
  • Campaign scheduled to premiere March 2006
  • Campaign will be available on all media channels: print, broadcast, able, radio and Internet.

Quote:

Every 20 minutes another family receives the devastating news that their child has autism. One in 166 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, with 1 in 104 boys affected – 4 times the number of boys than girls. This is a significant increase from just a decade ago, when 1 in 10,000 children were diagnosed. 

The Breakdown

  • Families receive devastating news when Autistic child is diagnosed
  • Autism prevalence is 1 in 166
  • Boys are 1 in 104
  • Boys are affected 4x more than girls.
  • Big increase from a decade ago
  • 10 years ago autism was 1 in 10,000

Quote:

“The goal of our campaign with the Ad Council will be to help people understand that autism is more common than they think” said Alison Singer, Senior Vice President of Autism Speaks. “We are grateful to the Ad Council for its commitment to improving overall awareness of autism, to breaking the stigma associated with autism, and to improving the outcomes for those who are or will be diagnosed by encouraging parents to seek early intervention services.” 

The Breakdown

  • Ad Council campaign goal: To help people understand that autism is more common than they think.
    • Breaking stigma about autism
  • Alison Singer, Senior Vice President of Autism Speaks, quoted.
  • Grateful to Ad Council for commitment to improving autism awareness and improve outcomes.

Quote:

“From polio to cancer to obesity, the Ad Council has been raising awareness and making a positive impact on the health of all Americans for decades. The significant increase in children being diagnosed with autism in this country is alarming. We are proud to partner with Autism Speaks and BBDO to raise awareness about this devastating disorder and inspire parents to seek early intervention for their child,” said Peggy Conlon, President & CEO of the Ad Council. 

The Breakdown

  • Ad Council has been raising awareness on polio, cancer, obesity and more
  • Ad Council has been making a positive impact on the health of all Americans for decades
  • Autism Speaks is proud to partner with Ad Council and BBDO
  • Peggy Conlin, President and CEO of the Ad Council states: Significant increase in children being diagnosed with autism in this country is alarming.
  • Conlin states a goal to raise awareness about the devastating disorder and to inspire parents to seek early intervention

Quote:

ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS 

Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism and to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric and Chairman and CEO, NBC Universal. Autism Speaks and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) recently signed a memorandum of understanding to combine operations and bring together two of the nation’s leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org

The Breakdown

  • Autism Speaks (AS) is dedicated to autism awareness
  • AS is dedicated to funding global biomedical research into autism causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism.
  • Autism Speaks was founded February 2005
  • Bob and Suzanne Wright are the co-founders
  • Bob Wright is a Vice Chairman and Executive Officer at General Electric
  • Bob Wright is a Chairman and CEO at NBC Universal
  • Autism Speaks and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) signed a memorandum of understanding to combine operations and merge the nation’s two leading autism advocacy organizations.
  • Autism Speaks website

Quote:

ABOUT THE AD COUNCIL 

The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a 60-year history of marshalling volunteer talent from advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. The Ad Council has produced thousands of public service campaigns that address the most pressing social issues of the day. Ad Council icons and slogans are woven into the very fabric of American culture – from Smokey Bear’s “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” and McGruff the Crime Dog’s “Take A Bite Out of Crime,” to the United Negro College Fund’s “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste,” and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.” Last year, the Ad Council received more than $1.7 billion in donated advertising time and space from the media. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit its Web site, www.adcouncil.org

The Breakdown

  • The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a 60 year history of delivering critical messages to the American public.
  • The Ad Council has produced thousand of public service campaigns (PSAs)
  • Ad Council icons and slogans are woven into the very fabric of American culture
    • Smokey Bear: Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires
    • McGruff the Crime Dog: Take a Bite Out of Crime
    • United Negro College Fund: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste
      • Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk
  • The Ad Council received more than $1.7 billion in donated advertising time and space from the media.
  • Learn more link to Ad Council site.


Comparison Table

What They SayWhat I see
Legislation & Initiatives

Autism Speaks partnered with the Advertising Council (AD Council) to produce public service announcements (PSA) about autism.

– Goal is to focus PSAs on Autism Awareness, early intervention
– Goal: Break Stigma
– Goal: Inform public autism is more common than they think

– Campaign scheduled to premiere March 2006

– Autism Speaks and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) signed a memorandum of understanding to combine operations and merge the nation’s two leading autism advocacy organizations.





Autism Speaks partnered with Advertising Council (Ad Council) to produce public service announcements (PSA) about autism.
– Autism Speaks partnered with a very trusted information source and was given access to promote their version of autism to the United States in PSAs.

– Autistic people were not included in any meaningful manner in the partnership of Autism Speaks and the Ad Council.

– Autism Speaks begins to merge with other autism organizations to become the leading and loudest voice on autism in the nation and worldwide.

– Autistic people were not included in any meaningful manner in the merger of Autism Speaks and NAAR.
Influencers/Influenced
General public: Campaign will be available on all media channels: print, broadcast, able, radio and Internet.

















– Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks
– Grandparent of an Autistic
– Vice Chairman of General Electric (GE)
– CEO NBC Universal





– Suzanne Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks
– Grandparent of an Autistic








Alison Singer, Senior Vice President of Autism Speaks
Parent of an Autistic




Peggy Conlin, President and CEO of the Ad Council


BBDO: Campaign was created pro bono by BBDO
– General Public: Campaign will be available on all media channels: print, broadcast, able, radio and Internet.

– The general public will be made ‘aware’ of autism via every media platform in the United States.

– Autism Speaks will broadcast their message, autism myths and misinformation throughout the US.
– Autistic people will be saturated in every public and and private space with Autism Speaks influence, marketing and advertisements.


– Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks.
Non-Autistic grandparent of an Autistic
– Not an Autistic Ally
– Dangerous Influencer
– Silences/and or speaks over Autistic advocates and Autistic people.

– Suzanne Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks
Non-Autistic Grandparent of an Autistic
– Dangerous Influencer
– Silences/and or speaks over Autistic Advocates and Autistic People

Alison Singer, Senior Vice President of Autism Speaks
Non-Autistic Parent of an Autistic
– Not an Autistic Ally
– Dangerous Influencer
– Silences/and or speaks over Autistic advocates and Autistic people.

Peggy Conlin, President and CEO of the Ad Council, Non-Autistic Person

BBDO: Campaign was created by non-Autistic people.
Target/Demographic
– Parents of Autistics
– Grandparents of an Autistic
– Loved ones of an Autistic
– Professionals
– Concerned US citizens
– Potential donors
– Doesn’t include Autistics
– Doesn’t include Autistic Parents of Autistics
– Doesn’t include Autistic Community
– Doesn’t include Autistic professionals
Marketing & Language Used
– Person First Language (PFL)

– Autism Community
– Concerned US citizens

– Autism Prevalence 
– stats for boys and girls

– Autism awareness, autism causes, autism prevention, autism treatment, autism cure

– Alarming, devastating disorder, big increase in population

  • – Autistic Culture uses Identity First Language (IFL)

    – Doesn’t include Autistic people
    – Doesn’t include Autistic Community
    – Doesn’t include Autistic Culture

    – Promotes Autism myths and misinformation

    – Tragedy Narrative
    – Fear/Violence Narrative
    – Cure/Eugenics language

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