KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, December 20, 2007

'Never Mind!' Yeah, Right

Never mind! We didn't really mean to perpetuate the stigma surrounding children's mental health and neurologic disorders.

That's in effect what the New York University Child Study Center is now saying about its controversial ad campaign about such disorders, which it has canceled. Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, the center's founder and director, is quoted in today's New York Times as saying that though some parents of children with the targeted disorders (autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [AD/HD], Asperger syndrome, bulimia, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder) liked the ads, the center "heard from some parents who are working day and night to help their children, and the way they read the ransom messages was that they weren’t doing enough."

You betcha that's the way we read those ads, doc! You conveniently forgot to say anything about how those ads perpetuated stigma and made parents—and the children who might have seen the ads—feel hopeless. I guess you thought that that part wasn't worth mentioning.

But your center will be planning another awareness-raising campaign, and I'm afraid I don't have much faith that the new ads will be much better. I get the strong impression from today's Times story and from last week's story that you enjoy publicity, even if it's negative, and that your attitude toward children's mental and behavioral disorders is stuck in the dark ages.

Hey, doc ... this mother of a teenager with AD/HD and depression, wife of a man with AD/HD, and daughter-in-law of a man with AD/HD will be watching you. Make sure that you get it right this time.

Updated at 1:39 p.m.: Here is the study center's statement about the discontinued ad campaign.

Updated at 9:10 p.m.: New York Times columnist Judith Warner, whose opinions as expressed in her "Domestic Disturbances" column I often agree with, pinpoints why so many parents of children with mental health and neurologic disorders were so outraged by the ad campaign. Here is my comment on that column.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Going Too Far to Make a Point About Disabilities

What the hell were they thinking? Do the people who created these ads, and the people who approved them, have any children with disabilities?

NYU Child Study Center ad about ADHDMy gifted 13-year-old son with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) and depression is not a "detriment to himself and those around him"! And my beloved husband, who also has AD/HD, is a shining example of just what a benefit to society someone with AD/HD can be.

Yes, the New York University Child Study Center ad campaign is meant to grab viewers' attention and make them realize that psychiatric and neurobehavioral disorders in children are serious and require treatment; they're fake ransom notes to parents that are "written" by the disorders who are holding children "hostage."

The ads are attention-getting. But will they also achieve the study center's goal of "generat[ing] a national dialogue that will end the stigma surrounding childhood psychiatric disorders"? No; they will perpetuate that stigma. Take a look at the ads for autism, Asperger syndrome, bulimia, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. And are AD/HD, autism, and Asperger syndrome psychiatric disorders? No; they're neurobehavioral disorders.

But what's really important is how the hell children who have any of these disorders will feel if they see the ads. Will adolescents—whose emotions are already strong because of hormonal changes and because they're busy trying to fit in—who have one of these disorders think that their life prospects are so bleak that they should just stop the pain now and kill themselves?

You can implore the study center to stop its misbegotten ad campaign by signing this petition.

If this is the best our society can do to "help" children with disorders and disabilities, we've got a long, long way to go.

Hat tip to Redneck Mother


Monday, December 10, 2007

Why Bias-Free Language Is Vital

I'm madly, crazily busy with work, but I wanted to send you to this terrific post on why bias-free language, now often pejoratively called politically correct language, is an absolute necessity in both writing and speaking.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Turning Down Low-Paying Work

Whenever freelancers get together, they often talk about whether they should accept low-paying projects.

Some of us with many years of experience advise not accepting such projects, even if you don't have a project at the moment, unless the financial wolf is at your door or it's for a cause you support. The main reasons behind this advice are (1) that the time you spend doing this work is time you could be spending searching for better-paying work and (2) accepting low pay can get you pigeonholed as someone who'll always accept low pay.

Here's a real-life example: My husband, Ed, has just started his own cabinetmaking company; he's a subcontractor. A former fellow subcontractor who is now a contractor and is a friend of Ed's called today with an offer of work. One of the subcontractors this man is working with needs an additional cabinetmaker for an installation in a home. It would be a day's work, and the subcontractor told Ed's friend that he'd pay $X for the day.

Ed, who has learned that he doesn't think fast on his feet in situations like that, thanked his friend and said he'd call him right back about the offer. Ed did the math and realized that the offered pay is quite a bit lower than what he needs to earn per hour to make a profit. We discussed the situation. He does have some project bids out right now, and he's very likely to be awarded at least a couple of the projects. But at this very moment, he doesn't have work. The wolf is not now at our door, so he doesn't have to take the gig. He would like to work with this contractor, though, so we discussed what amount of money he'd be willing to take for the day. He lowered it just a bit from what he wants to earn. He called the contractor back and said he'd be happy to do the work, but at a higher amount than the subcontractor had offered; he didn't say what his hourly rate is because that's proprietary information and because he always adds in a fudge factor to cover project glitches.

The contractor said that he was sorry, but the original amount was all that the subcontractor was willing to pay. Then he added that he was happy to know what rates Ed was willing to work for and that he'll keep Ed in mind for other projects. He didn't reject the idea of working with Ed just because Ed wants decent pay. Ed's okay with earning a little less from that contractor than from others because the contractor is much closer to home than most of his clients are, and he knows that most of that contractor's clients are middle-class home owners who won't pay for the high-end work that he does for the rest of his clients. Gigs from that contractor will be good fill-ins between projects from larger and better-paying contractors.

I'm proud of him for (1) taking the time to think the situation through rather than panicking and grabbing at whatever he could get and (2) sticking to what he thinks his skills are worth. Here's to all freelancers who do the same!

Updated at 5:10 p.m.: It's come to my attention that some freelancers don't understand how anyone can negotiate with a potential client without revealing their hourly rate. It's simple: You don't have to charge an hourly rate. You can charge a project fee or a per-page fee that works out to be what you want to earn per hour. Lots of freelancers operate this way; most cabinetmakers do too.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Love Note

The love of my lifeIf you can't stand mush, this post isn't for you. Everyone else, read on.

I am madly in love with my husband, Ed.

We've been together 15 years, 14 of them married, and I'll never get tired of him. He's good-looking, sweet and gentle, funny, silly, cheerful, dedicated, talented, enthusiastic, and a terrific father to our children. He's my best friend, and it's wonderful having him around more, now that he's self-employed.

It's gray and windy outside, but I could not possibly feel happier or more loved than I do right now.

Monday, December 03, 2007

In a Spruce, Darkly

Our blue spruce in 2006, alight for the holidaysIt's just after midnight. Do you know where your life partner is? Mine's up a tree ... the 45-foot-tall blue spruce in our front yard. It's way taller than our house. What's he doing? Obsessively finishing what he started yesterday, same as he can be found doing in early December every year.

Me? I'm going to go to bed and try to avoid having nightmares of him falling out of the spruce. I expect that I'll still be worrying about him in that tree for 20 more years. He's 46 now and still climbing like a monkey. My hair's already mostly gray and can't get too much grayer. Maybe the worrying will make it fall out completely. If you should ever encounter a bald woman with a balding, bearded monkey of a mate, that'll be us.

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