Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

I'm a Liar & Proud of It! (or, My Introduction to Reality)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

I'm a Liar & Proud of It! (or, My Introduction to Reality)

Article excerpt

I teamed up with Dr. Steven Perlman to petition CODA to establish a new standard to ensure the training of students for the care of individuals with special needs. After the Commission refused to accept our plea, citing increased costs, lack of experienced personnel, and a series of other related issues, I realized that my experience with expanding the truth would come in handy.


I always felt the first thing to teach a child is not to lie. However, the second item on the agenda should be, how and when to lie. For example, no matter how bad the meal may be, you should never tell your wife or husband (who labored over the gourmet recipe) your true feelings.


Almost 60 years have passed since was I was interviewed for admission to dental school. As an 18-year-old with a newly purchased interview suit and with more "guts than brains" I wandered into the interview session. I really didn't know that much about the field except for the time in a dental chair with my mouth hanging open and the few times I could watch others in the same chair with their mouths hanging open. My father never went beyond grade school; my mother made it through high school. As for me--I spent two years in college (we couldn't afford keeping me there any longer) and I worked in a grocery store delivering orders during my spare time. That was my background for the first question at my interview--"Other than text books, what books have you read in the past year?" Read a spare book, he had to be kidding. Riding on a bicycle to deliver grocery orders all over town did not leave much time for "other than textbooks." And so without a moment of hesitation, I blurted out, "The Bible, it helped." OK, so I lied, but it seemed to have impressed the interviewer and I was admitted to the dental school.


There were 148 white men, one black male and one woman (but she was from Puerto Rico and she was counted as a foreign student) in my class. My father cried when, in the third year, they raised the tuition from $750 to $1,000 per year. We treated youngsters, middle age and older patients, but never saw a patient with any kind of medically related disorder (they were screened out) and there were no patients with disabilities. Actually, people with disabilities did not exist in the 1950s. Other than someone's "really old" grandparent, individuals with disabilities were shut away in some institution or restricted to some home setting; as though they were a shameful blot on our society or on an individual family. There were no lectures or clinical experiences in dental school about providing care to individuals with special needs. Now, that was the big lie!


Two years in the navy as a dentist really convinced me that while everyone seemed to drink a lot of alcohol (but not me), everyone was healthy--no individuals with disabilities on a naval base or on a ship. It was after that period that I was introduced to the realities of children with disabilities. A two year scholarship provided by the United Cerebral Palsy Association permitted me to continue my graduate education in pediatric dentistry. I learned that cerebral palsy and untold number of other developmental disorders were not just a child's encumbrance. These youngsters reached their adult years and who now live in our neighborhoods. …

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