On Sunday, while my kids and I were watching football, this advertisement came on TV from Autism Speaks:
It’s a public service announcement featuring singer Toni Braxton and her autistic son, and focuses on the long odds of Toni Braxton becoming a pop star vs the much higher odds of her having a kid with autism. As the somewhat spooky music and voiceover detailing Toni Braxton’s career progressed (her odds of becoming a pop star were one in a million…) I could see both my kids getting nervous:
“Dad, what happened to her?? Did she DIE?!?!”
I told them that as far as I knew she was still alive.
“Then why is the music spooky”
“I’m not sure.”
Finally when the punchline came, saying the odds of having a son with autism were much higher than the odds of Toni Braxton becoming a pop star:
“Dad? Did her son die then?!?”
“No, it says he has Autism.”
“Like my friend from school!?!?”
“Is my friend going to die!?! But he’s so NICE!!”
And that’s the problem. From the tone of the ad it makes it seem that this singer and her son’s lives are pretty much over, the rest will be struggling and just getting by. We clearly know that’s not the case, there’s more than a million people with autism going on with their lives. Why are they casting these what I imagine are well meaning ads with such a tragic, dehumanizing rhetoric?