Friday, December 14, 2007

Autism Vox Tells The NYT PART Of the Autism Story

In reaction to a provocative public service advertising campaign which highlighted some of the negative realities of autism and other mental disorders, Kristina Chew of Autism Vox did what she does day in and day out, she told part of the story of autism. In Campaign on Childhood Mental Illness Succeeds at Being Provocative Ms Chew gave the New York Times the "let's all feel good, say nice things, and sing Koombaya" part of the story of autism and she expressed indignation and outrage on behalf of parents of special-needs children, autistic adults, teachers, disability rights advocates and mental health professionals about the negative picture of autism presented by the campaign.

At Autism Vox Ms Chew rarely mentions any of the negative realities that actually result in autism diagnoses or that impair the lives of so many autistic children and adults and the family members and caregivers who love and care for them. Any expression of those negative realities whether it be the Autism Every Day video or the campaigns by people such as Jenny McCarthy to cure autism are met with hostility, scorn and ridicule at Autism Vox.

The campaign that Ms Chew attacks with her efforts is a campaign to help children with psychiatric disorders. In the Autism Vox Universe it is people trying to help children by telling the truth who are the enemy. In fact it is the truth that is the enemy at Autism Vox. And WHO are the real people behind the campaign? It is not NYU. It is those people who speak the truth about their children's conditions - honest, caring parents. It is they who inspired the campaign attacked by Ms Chew:

"According to Dr. Koplewicz, the campaign was inspired by filmed conversations of parents and children talking about life with a psychiatric disorder. “These families felt their children were trapped by their disorders,” he said.

John Osborn, the president and chief executive of BBDO New York, said the effort was intended to increase the sense of urgency about the diseases and encourage conversation. “It’s tricky because there are a lot of messages in the air, particularly at holiday time. That makes it a challenge to cut through the clutter.”

BBDO’s earlier ads for the Child Study Center — which included images of a child running happily through a sprinkler and a drawing of a child caught in a maze — “were wonderful, but they didn’t get this kind of attention from anyone,” Dr. Koplewicz said. “They were too pleasant and innocuous. That’s the reason we decided to go along with BBDO.”

He was further emboldened, he said, by the reaction of focus groups of women whose children have the disorders mentioned in the ads. “Everyone who participated felt the ads were informative,” he said. “While we knew the campaign was edgy and we knew it would be harsh and upsetting, the facts of mental illness are even more upsetting.

Thankfully the New York Times told both sides of the story. My son has Autism Disorder. He is severely autistic. I have a duty to speak the truth about his disorder, a sense of duty not on display at Autism Vox where parents speaking the truth are treated with contempt and outrage. It was encouraging to see the NYT present an explanation for the campaign.

Some day it might dawn on Ms Chew that parents speaking the truth about their children's autism disorders actually love their children every bit as much as she does, that we find joy in our children every single day of our time together with them. But unlike Ms Autism Vox we also understand that time IS in fact the enemy for most of our autistic children, that many WILL live their lives dependent on the cares of others, especially after we are gone. We live with the realities of self aggression and aggression to others. We live with the realities of ever present danger to our children presented by every day life. And we try to do something about it, for our children and for other autistic children and adults. And we do something rarely done at Autism Vox we speak the whole truth about autism

Ms Chew bragged to the New York Times about the 3,000 to 4,000 daily visitors to Autism Vox. What she failed to mention were the hundreds of thousands of parents across the United States and Canada fighting to treat and cure their autistic children, parents who, on behalf of the children they love, speak the truth, the whole truth, about autism. And like the campaign organizers at NYU we know that the facts of autism are more upsetting than the provocative imagery used in the awareness raising ransom notes campaign - for most of us anyway.


kristina said...

Thank you for the post.

Kristina Chew
Saint Peter's College

Unknown said...

You are quite welcome Ms Chew.

I always welcome an opportunity to help in telling the whole autism story.

Harold Doherty, BA, LLB
Barrister and Solicitor

Anonymous said...

Is that the whole autism story like 'Autism every Day' was the 'whole autism story'?

Hypocrisy isn't clever or pretty Mr Doherty.

Unknown said...

Anonymous 3:24

Your comment does not disclose any hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

Well lets see if I can make it a little clearer for you Mr Doherty; whilst you take Ms Chew to task for telling 'part of the story', you sdeem to have forgotten your wholesale endorsement of 'Autism Every Day' which also told 'part of the story'.

Of course, since it told the part you like to talk about you didn't feel the need to take umbrage with the fact it only told part of the story as you do with Ms Chew.

QED: you are a hypocrite Mr Doherty.

Unknown said...

Sorry "anonymous" but I don't agree with the assumptions on which your argument is based. Autism Every Day is a video which provides information about the challenges faced by autistic children and their families. It does not try to argue that no one should speak about the obvious facts of the joy created by the children in the video, the children that those parents love and are fighting for.

Ms Chew day in, day out, for several years posts feel good stories about autism and her family experiences with autism. She does not post about the intellectual deficits of some autistic persons, the self injurious behavior of some injurious behaviors, or the realities of lives spent in the care of others faced by some autistic persons. She has also, on more than one occasion criticized other parents, bloggers etc for trying to bring attention to the hard realities faced by autistic children and adults. The Autism Every Day video as I stated does not argue that Ms Chew should not be entitled to present her "rose colored glasses", autism is wonderful views. You are comparing apples and oranges.

Maybe it would help you understand if you looked at this blog site. I have many posts talking about the personal qualities of my son and my joy in daily life with Conor. Look at the pictures on the side bar of this site if you are don't have time to bother with that much effort. Yet I also talk about the harsh realities my son faces and about research, interventions etc. I try to present the whole story not just the good or the bad. And I don't organize campaigns to suppress discussion even of those views that I personally find ludicrous.

I hope this helps you develop some understanding of these issues "anonymous" and an understanding of why your hypocrisy allegations are ill founded.

Unknown said...


I didn't publish your tirade. Your string of personal insults was not a very good cover for your inability to respond to the argument.

Anonymous said...

NEXT STEPS - they are not hearing us

They have not responded to our requests to pull the campaign and it sounds like we are really emboldening Harold Koplewicz and his boss, Robert Grossman, appears to be letting Koplewicz see the campaign through. I found some contacts that are over both of their heads and we need to promote a major emailing, writing and phone calling campaign to Medical Center Board Chairman Kenneth Langone, NYU President John Sexton, and NYU Trustee Chairman Martin Lipton. Here is their contact info; PLEASE help get the word out.

Kenneth Langone, Board Chairman
New York University Medical Center
(212) 421-2500
375 Park Avenue, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10152

Martin Lipton, Board of Trustee Chairman
New York University
(212) 403-1200
51 West 52nd Street, 29th Floor
New York, NY 10019

John Sexton, President
New York University
(212) 998-2345
70 Washington Square South, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10012

PLEASE share and post this information.

John Best said...

I don't think any non-verbal children took part in protesting the ads. Thanks for presenting their point of view.