Tesco: Stop hosting Caudwell Children's controversial 'Locked in for Autism' campaign

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Dear Tesco,

Since 2015 you have hosted the charity Caudwell Children and their fundraising campaign 'Locked in for Autism', where a volunteer lives inside a glass box in one of your stores for 50 hours at a time. This is to raise funds for the charity and supposedly raise awareness of autism.

We know that as a company you are committed to supporting local communities and charities, and that your involvement with Caudwell is due to the best of intentions. However, this campaign has generated a lot of controversy, and you are alienating your Autistic customers by allowing this fundraising promotion to appear in your stores.

Many Autistic people have been traumatised when entering your store and seeing this campaign in action. Many have been locked in seclusion rooms, or their children have, and this insensitive campaign reminds them of this trauma. We have had many reports of Autistic people avoiding your stores during these events as it is too painful for them to see.

We ask you to please reconsider hosting this campaign, which perpetuates inaccurate, damaging stereotypes of Autistic people, who are being silenced and ignored by this charity who claims to represent them.

We oppose 'Locked in for Autism' for the following reasons:

* Caudwell do not represent Autistic people - they have consistently ignored and silenced Autistics responding to this campaign.

Hundreds of Autistic people have contacted Caudwell to express their opinions about this campaign - Caudwell have not engaged with them and have deleted any negative comments about the campaign without addressing any of the issues.

They do not appear to have consulted with Autistic people at any stage, only parents of Autistic children.

They have not taken on board any feedback received or adjusted their campaign in any way despite repeatedly being informed that their campaign is deeply offensive to Autistic people, who they claim to represent.

* They do not make any effort to raise awareness of autism despite basing their whole campaign on this premise.

Their campaign in fact spreads misinformation about autism and seems to take inspiration from the 1950's with their 'powerful' metaphor of autism being 'trapped in a glass box'.

They have not had any information to offer people about autism when approaching their stalls in Tesco. When asked how they are raising awareness of autism they claim that by simply drawing attention to the word 'autism' they are raising awareness, that people who have not heard the word will be curious and will go home and do their research. It is very unlikely in 2017 that many (if any) people have never heard of the word 'autism'.

Their website does not contain any meaningful, substantial, or even basic information about autism.

The campaign is purely a gimmick to raise money and Caudwell have proved time and again they have no interest in actually raising awareness of autism.

*Their campaign is deeply offensive and dehumanises Autistics

The glass box supposedly represents autism - according to some parents of Autistic children. This metaphor only serves to further stigmatise Autistic people as the 'other' - separated, segregated, silenced, ridiculed, ignored. Like a freak show or an animal at the zoo. Not really human. Trapped in themselves, unintelligent and unable to communicate. Something to pity. A burden on others. And so on.... Autistic people do not want to be represented in this way, and these attitudes harm Autistics.

Autistic people have historically been restrained, locked away in institutions, trapped in boxes/cupboards/cages, murdered in this and many other ways. In fact this is still happening. Here is an example from only 6 years ago (TW: Murder)

*The money raised by Caudwell is used to fund unethical interventions

Caudwell fund early intervention therapies and ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) which is widely considered by Autistic people to be 'Autistic Conversion Therapy' or 'Dog Training for Autistics'. Many Autistics are coming out and sharing their stories of abuse and trauma in these ABA programs. Caudwell cannot genuinely claim that they encourage acceptance of autism, while funding programs that seek to eradicate any traces of autism, often forcibly.

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