The group claims the ad is an inaccurate and unethical portrayal of those with autism and has demanded that the charity consult with disability advocates before running future campaigns.
The ad features a young boy, Dan, talking about his experiences of living with autism and how Action for Children helped him with behavioural problems, in particular, his tendency to lash out at those who insulted him. It uses an animation to portray him as trapped inside a rampaging monster until the charity intervenes, after which he emerges as a vulnerable young man.
The coalition claims the ad implies that autistic children are monstrous and lays the blame on the child for lashing out, rather than on the bullies.
More than 2000 people have joined a Facebook group to protest (see box) and about 50 people have complained about the ad to the ASA.
The campaigners said they did not question Action for Children's motivations, but that its approach was liable to increase stigma around the condition and be offensive.
Responding to the criticism, Action for Children said: 'Dan approved the concept and drawings, which depict how he saw himself and what he felt he needed help with. The animation in the ad is a representation of Dan's feelings of anger and frustration, not of autism.
'We do not believe that the experiences and perceptions articulated by Dan in the ad present autism as the problem.Rather, they highlight the avoidable confusion and difficulties experienced when the support that is needed - and people are entitled to - is not forthcoming. It is aimed at reinforcing the positive effect of timely support.'
'The ad shows autism as a monster that takes over children. This is wrong!' Susan Wormald
'This is discrimination of the highest order.' Thomas MacCallum
'I have no desire at all to string up Action For Children; my only aim is to get them to under-stand what is wrong in their ad.' Janine Dixon-Wilkinson
'I am almost speechless. Thank you for bringing it to everyone's attention'. Tanya Hunt