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.

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