Friday, October 22, 2010

An ad campaign for kids with special needs? Bring it on!

This is Tanya Kiewitz, a 35-year-old graphic designer who's appearing in an ad for CAP48, a nonprofit that raises awareness about disability issues in France and Belgium. The copy reads, "Look me in the eyes... I said the eyes." The ad's getting major buzz in Europe, and now here.

"They see that I am above all a woman and can be beautiful and sexy, and that disability is secondary," Kiewitz has said.


That is exactly what I want for Max (well, minus the "sexy" part): for people to look at him and first see a great kid, not a Kid with Disabilities.

You know, I'm thinking our kids need their own ad campaign. Although I'm not sure how Max would feel about posing in a bra.

I could see a whole "Suck it!" campaign:

Suck it, cerebral palsy!
Suck it, autism!
Suck it, Down Syndrome!
Suck it, PDD!
Suck it, Tourette's!
And so on.

I am a little stumped as to what the visuals might be.

OK, then, so how about:

I am Max. I am NOT cerebral palsy.
I am Sarah. I am NOT Down Syndrome.
I am Leo. I am NOT autism.
And so on.

Whaddaya think?


  1. I LOVE the idea for the campaign, but I think the "suck it" or "I'm not" makes disabilities seem scary or something to be rejected, rather than just an aspect of who that person is (along with other aspects).

    What about "I'm Max, look at me ___!" or "I'm Sara, look at me___!" With the blank being filled in by something everyday and "typical" (like playing, working, etc).

  2. My daughter, after discovering that none of her friends knew what CP was, decided that she wanted to make a PSA. There hasn't been a good one made since the 80's for the US. She's decided that she's going to use guerrilla video and do impromptu interviews, and then use text overlay to dispel myths and prejudice! Pretty cool for an 8th grade social science project!
    I love the 'Look Me In the Eye' campaign, but I wonder if the aggressiveness may have an adverse effect. "I'm here and I'm Queer - get used to it" worked for grown ups... But I wonder how it will work for children? Do children belong in a campaign? Just thoughts... I haven't formulated a complete opinion yet!

  3. I don't know if I like the "Suck it"
    But I love "I'm not"
    Because, in a sense you are rejecting the disability. You are rejecting the label and the stereotypes that inhibit your child.
    I think, to further reject the label, put the child first; as in
    "I am Bobby. I am not autism." and show a picture of the child playing, or drawing or something that they do that integrates them into the realm of simply children. Not Children With Disorders (as they are sometimes seen)
    kinda like a "I have a disorder, the disorder doesn't have me." feel to it.
    I think your idea for an ad campaign is super!

  4. This is a great idea! I had an idea, too. How about the child listing their name and something they like to do that's just like their peers:
    "Hi, I'm Max and I like to race cars."
    "Hi, I'm Ruby and I like Elmo."
    Maybe instead of rejecting the disability, showing the ways in which our kids are a lot like their peers will inspire a natural way of looking beyond the disability. Just a thought!
    Love your blog as always, Ellen!

  5. Ellen, I LOVE this ad. Thanks for sharing it.

  6. I love the idea. But, I'm with Z...I'd rather see an ad campaign where kids talk about what they are. I wrote a post yesterday about how labels can affect how we as people with disabilities see ourselves, how we are or are not bullied, how our schools treat us, etc.

    I think there's a fine line between accepting our disability and rejecting it. We don't want to be complacent, like you mentioned recently, but we don't want to hate that part of ourselves either (at least not IMO). So, I prefer to see a focus on the "cans."

    Even doing something like "I'm Max and I am _____ and can _____ but I'm not CP" would work.

  7. I think you have to find a way to work in the idea of the fact that we are not defined by our disorder. Someone, and I wish I could remember where I read this, which blog, said they always introduce their child in this way...'Hi, this is Bennett, he has Autism.' Not 'Hi, this is Bennett, he IS Autistic.'

    Somewhere in there is the beating heart of a campaign. We are people, we are not disorders...but it's afternoon time and my mind is mush in these hours, doesn't get cripsy again until after dinner.

  8. I love the I AM campaign idea. Also, idea, I have _______, _______ does not have me. (Or I may have ______, but ________ definitely does not have me.)

  9. Hi Ellen! A couple of weeks ago I finished reading your blog from start to present. It's amazing. Look forward to every post. And I kinda have a crush on Max, he's the cutest :) Anyway, I like your idea for a campaign. In England, they have recently run a similar approach to change the attitudes to people with facial disfigurements. Their ads say things like: "To anyone who every looked at me and thought I had nothing to smile about - look at me now". Check it out, it has really got a great response:

  10. This is an interesting discussion, because it's from the point of view of people (parents, primarily, I think) who do not themselves have a disability. Many people with autism believe that you cannot separate who they are from autism. It's a part of them, and they're proud of it. The same way for deaf people. Hearing people may view deaf people as having a disability, but many, MANY deaf people view themselves as being part of a linguistic minority, and not as a person with a disability. So, it's really in the eye of the beholder, I think.

  11. i Love the

    I am campaign....

    Would have my daughter wear that shirt when we are walking around the grocery store. I want them to look at her; not her AFO's and walker.

    The freaky ppl in the grocery store can also suck it.

  12. What about listing the disability alongside the personal interests? "I am Max, and I like car washes and the color purple. If you have a question about CP, talk to the boss lady." I guess that's too long. How about, "I have brown hair, autism, a great smile, and an annoying little sister."

    I like the "suck it" campaign, too.

    Ooh, how about the kid wears a T-shirt or scarlet letter or something obnoxious with their diagnosis on it, and then they do a normal kid thing (like playing in the mud or dancing in the rain) that obscures or washes away the diagnosis, showing that underneath that label they're still a regular kid?

    Thanks for sharing the ad. I hadn't seen it before and liked it.

  13. I love it! I actually like the "Suck it!" one. The visual is easy. Our kids are gorgeous! What more is needed?

  14. Love the idea of a positive ad campaign. It drives me NUTS when people refer to kids as a "CP kid", a "Downs kid", a "Prader-Willi", etc.

    I like the idea of emphasizing who the kid IS and what they can do rather than what they are not. I think the kids' beautiful faces engaged in something they love will say so much, so simple is best.

    When Oscar was born I found a picture of a curly-haired smiling two year old with Prader-Willi syndrome on the internet and the caption was "erin frolicking with friends". So much of my fear of this crazy diagnosis dissipated in that moment, with just one picture and a couple well-chosen words.

    GO for it! We'll help!

  15. Abso-frickin-lutely.

    My own daughter, whose visible disability is caudal regression, has proved time and again that she is her own person, and not merely a personification of her affliction(s).

    I like the "I'm not..." but I myself would lean more towards "I'm [name], and I am more than..."

  16. I love the idea of a campaign for kids with special needs!!

    I've always been integrated into a mainstream class and each year all the students had a photo with a little bit about themself on the wall.

    Mine always said " My name is Rhi and there's more to me then my Autism and ADHD" :)

  17. I like the positive approach. I was in a room of kids and Mums when the BBC kids presenter Cerrie was on. She has one half arm and this gained the attention of all the grown ups but not the kids. They could only see her and join in her dancing and were gripped by her presentation. I think it's a measure of who you are how you perceive a person. My Ashley is a bundle of joy a really strong character - one facet of him is his disability. It won't go away but it does not define him. The subtlety of the bra advert is that it plays on men ogling her boobs AND folk noticing her arm. It uses her disability AND her lovely figure. Very clever. Makes you think. A good ad for our kids would be one that doesn't overly focus on the disability. They play, they charm, they make a mess, etc. Oh yeah and they have a disability.

  18. Love it! My Mom and I have been saying FOREVER that companies need to use kids with disabilities makes me want to buy their clothes/products!! And, of course, we think Olivia should be the model! I'm OLIVIA not Cri du Chat syndrome!!!

  19. Siobhan stole my idea! (We think waaaaaay too much alike!) I often think Chas should have a PSA that says, "I have hemophilia. Don't worry... I won't bleed all over ya!" I do also find the post about people's disabilities being part of who they are intriguing. None of us in our family would be who we are without the various diagnoses. But I think that the point is, it's not the only influence on who we are. First and foremost, we're a person, bearing the fingerprints of God and in need of the same dignity as any human.

  20. I LOVE THE AD! Thanks for posting it!

  21. My dad said "Look me in the eyes? She needs to cover up them titties, then!"

    He's not terribly PC but he means well...

    I like the idea of just including kids of all circumstances in all aspects of life--to include product advertising. Familiarity is half the battle I think.

  22. An awesome ad (caught dh's eye as he walked by my computer!!) and I love the idea of the "I am Max, I am NOT cerebral Palsy" ad campaign...I think we should put up a billboard here on HWY 101 in silicon valley with that!!!

  23. I say Go For it :)
    Lovely Ad indeed!

  24. As a person with CP who knowingly terms herself a "spastic" (or even "a CP"; hell, I learned it at disability sports camp!), I think the "NOT" language is off-base for a lot of reasons. Also, I think naming specific disabilities in the context of larger disability awareness kind of . . . tokenizes people? Like, "Oh, you have that thing, that's what's up with you." When that is not true in my experience and also it objectifies people.

    What about:

    "I am Max. I am MORE."

  25. Great discussion happening here. I don't know that there is a "right" answer though I do like the general idea of a campaign that plays up the idea that kids are KIDS first. Meretyping, I see your point about not naming specific disabilities.

    You know, now I'm curious to hear what ad geniuses might think. I am going to find some to weigh in! Stay tuned!

  26. Hi Ellen,

    I got sideswiped by the weekend, which is why I hadn't commented before now. Thanks for writing this post - it's a thought-provoker.

    We recently published an essay on The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, an adult with autism, on the complicated topic of being "more than" one's diagnosis. In her opinion, her autism is far too much a part of her to be "transcended." I recommend a read:

    Like Z, I understand the urge for bravado in the face of others' assumptions about our kids, but think our advocacy on their behalf -- when it's proactive, not reactive -- benefits from assertive positivity. I am Max, watch me roar!

    People who insult or dismiss or callously underestimate my kid can certainly suck it, though.

    -Shan (Leo's mom)

  27. Love this idea! :)
    I personally prefer the "I am more than _____." to the "I am not _____" just because of the positive twist that also includes their diagnoses in who they are.

    Afterall, it is an integral part of who our children are. My son's PDD-NOS has given him some amazing giftedness, so I don't reject it, but I do want people to know that that isn't all there is to him.

    Overall, awesome. Wish we could get this out of thought and into reality!

  28. Okay, so I know this is a very old entry but I just came across it and I absolutely LOVE the idea of a campaign. I think it could also be something like "I have cerebal palsy (or any other disability)... but cerebal palsy doesn't have me."


Thanks for sharing!

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