Action for Children autism advert cleared by ASA

Advertising watchdog rules against more than 60 complaints

The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected more than 60 complaints about an Action for Children TV advert which used a cartoon monster to portray the emotions of an autistic child.

Sixty-one viewers and Autreach, a network of organisations working to support autistic people, made a variety of complaints against the advert, including objections that it was misleading and offensive to autistic children and their families.

The advert tells the real story of a child, referred to as Dan, who says he used to "lash out if someone pushed my buttons or I wasn't able to do something", while an animated creature waves its arms around and bares its teeth. "Dan" then explains that he went to an Action for Children school and learnt to control his behaviour and "become a better person".

Complainants said the advert suggested autistic children were monsters and that autism could be cured. However, the Advertising Standards Authority found that none of the complaints were valid. It concluded that viewers would realise that the monster depicted the emotions Dan experienced as a person with autism, rather than saying people with autism were monsters. It also ruled that simply because the advert said some forms of behaviour could be addressed, it did not suggest that autism could be cured.

Polly Neate, executive director of external relations and communications at Action for Children, said she was pleased with the outcome.

"We have been keen to understand the views and feelings of those who found the advert offensive, because we had absolutely no intention of causing offence," she said.

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