Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Society often judges ‘invisible’ disabilities

A local wellness camp for girls next week includes a panel about “invisible” disabilities.

I heard about the panel but am unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict so my details about the panel are fuzzy. But in the days leading up to the camp, events have been taking place nationally that I believe have direct bearing upon the concept of “invisible” disabilities.

Talk radio host Michael Savage issued statements about the autism spectrum that made many people very angry.

Autism as it is understood today acknowledges varying degrees of severity among its qualifying traits.

But in a July 16 broadcast, Savage described autism as “a fraud, a racket…” and stated, “In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out.”

Speaking from my own experience, this is typical Savage -- incendiary opinions with a complete disregard for facts.

A few years ago a coworker suggested I review a book by Savage; she apparently admired him. I knew nothing about Savage at the time and when I saw his book at a bookstore, I began reading the introduction. I quickly put it down because, barely a few pages in, I encountered a statement that was blatantly a lie. I didn’t see any point to reading further -- and I certainly didn’t see any point to validating his book with a review.

I didn’t hear his recent statements, but I read them posted online by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (

Within one week, a joint coalition of 13 groups had issued a statement denouncing Savage’s comments as “dangerous misinformation.”

I think this entire exchange dramatizes the notion of an “invisible” disability as it may soon be discussed among young girls in our own community.

People who wield powerful authority in the lives of boys and girls are typically other children -- who are all-too-likely to persecute people who are in any way “different” from them.

That makes it all the more crucial that we educate our children -- and our society at large -- about accepting “invisible” disabilities and it is particularly important to teach children who have “invisible” disabilities that their needs are completely valid -- even though an ignorant public may not always understand those needs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Letters are part of history

The newspaper was always a part of our household while my sister and I grew up. I routinely read our local newspaper, the Weekly Calistogan, either through at-home subscription or during visits to the Calistoga library. Newspaper clippings about us girls were preserved in photo albums.

The larger, regional newspaper, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, also regularly came to our home. This paper offered little of relevance to my immediate hometown community but it took on greater interest to me when I lived and worked in the Santa Rosa area.

While I was going to school at Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University, I spent time upon the staff of each of these schools’ student newspapers. I also read the alternative press. I formerly looked forward each week to its investigative journalism but today the North Bay Bohemian mainly covers restaurants and wine.

So many papers, large and small, including our own local media: the Clear Lake Observer American and the Lake County Record-Bee.

What all of these papers have in common is that the very first page I turn to, in nearly every newspaper I read, is the opinion page. It offers an intimate, first-hand glimpse in real-time at the issues of importance that are being debated in a local community.

At the same time, these letters’ publication preserves them forever in history. They are personal impressions and experiences brought to life in the writer’s own words.

The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble ( created a play, “Letters to the Editor,” from actual letters that appeared in one town’s paper during a period of 200 years. I remember that when I first heard about the play, I speculated about the history that our own papers’ letters will reveal.

If another theater ensemble workshop were to examine our letters to the editor, what issues will they find of most importance? How many voices will be represented?

The most egalitarian part of writing a letter to the editor is that the letters that appear in print are almost entirely self-selected, as are the priorities and opinions they express. There may be some filters in place for space restrictions or community standards, but by and large the only barrier is one that is self-imposed by choosing not to write in the first place.

Adapted from a column that was published July 29, 2008 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tenacious Talkers installs new and returning officers

Toastmasters officers, 2008-2009: Tenacious Talkers in Lakeport
Left to right: Bob Robinson, Louis Rigod, Cynthia Parkhill,
Greg Scott, Laurie LaMonaco, Dean Gotham and Rick White.
LAKEPORT — At a pot-luck gathering held Sunday, July 13, at Library Park in Lakeport, the Toastmasters club No. 8731, the Tenacious Talkers, installed Laurie Lamonaco as president, Greg Scott as vice president of education, Cynthia Parkhill as vice president of public relations, Bob Robinson as vice president of membership, Louis Rigod as treasurer, Dean Gotham as sergeant at arms and Lillia Powers as secretary.

The club also honored Rick White as its immediate past president.

Brien Crothers was named the club’s Toastmaster of the Year for his work in creating a Web site for the club. Crothers served last year as the club’s vice president of PR.

Tenacious Talkers is part of Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization that provides its members with training in public speaking and leadership. The local club meets at 6:15 p.m. each Thursday at Sutton Associates Wealth Management, 290 N. Main St. in Lakeport. For more information, call 263-5350 or visit

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Make ADA protection as broad as possible

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a civil rights bill that would restore broad protections to the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. The U.S. Senate is also expected to pass a similar measure.