Thursday, December 20, 2007

Now Comes the Hard Part

Like many in the autism related blogosphere, I rejoiced yesterday when I heard that the NYU "Ransom Notes" campaign had been pulled by its director, Dr. Harold Koplewicz. I had blogged about my ethical concerns with this campaign, and felt that the campaign demeaned those who had those conditions, and would only further continued ostracizing and marginalizing by the public at large.

It is a huge thing for someone to stop an ad campaign that is just getting underway. I am sure that there were a lot of people that had a lot invested in designing and implementing that campaign, and it was hard for them just to scrap it. It is a testament to Ari Ne'eman's astute perception of the exact tone to strike in opposing this campaign, and his organizing prowess that this victory took place.

At the same time, I give Dr. Koplewicz credit for his part in this. Having launched a big campaign, and after reviewing the large outpouring of negative comments, he was willing to not let his ego stop him from doing what was the right thing. As I stated in my original post, there is much in his past stated comments, as well as publications, to think that he is not the enemy of autistics and others with various conditions. When someone stops, apologizes, and asks for input, I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

I think it is a major step that Dr. Koplewicz proposed a "town hall" forum that would include viewpoints of all the stakeholders of the campaign.

Now that the "relatively easy" part of objecting to what was obviously a very negative and hurtful campaign is over, the real work needs to begin. It is much easier to protest than to come up with positive and catchy slogans and ad campaigns. I have great hope that there are many very creative individuals within the disability community that will help in designing a campaign that all can be proud of, and that will be effective.

On another front, as has been mentioned elsewhere (here and here), The National Institute on Mental Health issued a "Request for Information" asking for input into what kind of autism research should be funded. The deadline for submissions is near (Jan. 4th). Responses need to be limited to two pages, and response needs to be to a particular e-mail address (

So put on your thinking caps quickly, get your thoughts together, go to Kathleen Seidel's site to see the entire proposal, and get your submissions in. We all need to make positive contributions to let people know what we expect from our government and private sectors.


kristina said...

This is my main thought: One thing to react and protest; another thing to come up with one's own signature and positive program. I rather thought the timing of the NIMH sending out its RFI was a bit of serendipitous timing. For myself, some of the other things I've posted on today and yesterday are key concerns.

Daisy said...

Education is number one for me, and to do that well teacher training needs to be extensive and (gulp) funded.

Marla said...

Very true and good points here. I will work on submitting. It is all hard work.

Steve D said...

I totally agree, Joe, and blogged about NIH's RFI myself tonight.
Also, I think you and I are the only bloggers who are giving credit to Dr. Koplewicz for desisting the campaign. I understand there is a lot of anger, and that his closing statement could have been more appeasement-oriented, but I agree with you that we ought to give the guy the benefit of the doubt under the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Too little too late?
It took Harold Koplewicz too long to realize that hurting people you want to “help” is not acceptable collateral damage. We should write these officials to thank them for pulling the ads and request that they keep an eye on Koplewicz to make sure he doesn’t try anything this dirty again to drum up business in the name of public awareness:

Kenneth Langone, Board Chairman
New York University Medical Center

Martin Lipton, Board of Trustee Chairman
New York University

John Sexton, President
New York University

Robert Grossman, Dean and CEO
New York University Medical Center

Philip. said...

Wishing you all the best for 2008 and a Happy New Year.