My family is very grateful to Gov. Bob Taft for the creation of the Ohio Autism Task Force. The 43 recommendations presented to the governor encompass not only the growing incidence of autism and ways to improve services to families, but also the need for education. The general public's education on the subject is as important as special training for teachers in dealing with autism spectrum disorders.
Many people think of autism only in terms of the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie Rainman. The public needs to be aware that autism covers a wide spectrum of characteristics and traits. There are many highly functioning autistic persons among us. Autism has many faces. A neurological disorder, autism can affect a person's ability to understand and effectively use comunication. As a result many are misunderstood. Autisic persons are often very intelligent, however, they may appear to be "stupid."
My 13-year-old son is one of these misunderstood, highly intelligent persons. His disability makes him stand out among his peers. He has been teased and taken advantage of. Few people know that he is autistic. To most, he is just "weird" and "stupid." If people were better educated about autism, perhaps they would be more understanding of my son and others.
The governor must take the task force report to heart. Don't let it get lost in budget cuts. Education and services are crucial to many Ohio families like mine.
What most strikes me about Christian conservatives is how little they exemplify Christian ideals. Jesus died because he opposed the rigidity of Jewish law. His primary teaching was that people are more important than rules. Texas, where President Bush was governor, is the home of Stateside Prison, a place where imprisoned wretches suffer lives of horror that would convince the most cynical skeptic of the existence of hell. Christian conservatives represent the monolithic mentality that the tolerant, compassionate Jesus lost his life opposing.
Port Clinton, Ohio
Letters to the editor are shedding more heat than light on the Social Security issue.
For example, a recent writer stated that he would be 65 in April and would be qualified to receive a normal, full Social Security payment. He is in for a surprise, because those people born in 1940 are not entitled to a full benefit until they are age 65 and 6 months.
Another writer is concerned about raising the age for full benefits to age 68 and having to work until you die. The fact is, when Social Security was founded the average life expectancy was just under 60. Today it is more than 25 percent longer at just over 76. If the age for full benefits were lifted to 68, that would be a 4.6 percent increase over 65. In other words, at one time the benefit age was higher than the life expectancy.
Keep in mind, everyone has the option to take benefits at age 62. I read other examples almost daily. I am not an employee of Social Security nor am I an apologist for it, but I think people should be basing their decisions about what should or should not be done on fact and not emotion. By the way, the facts quoted above and a lot of other information can be found on the Social Security Web site. It's quite an eye opener.
George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm that all animals are equal, "but some are more equal than others." That's evident in recent discussions of Social Security and health care. Those in Congress who enjoy benefit packages the population dare not dream of are telling us that we should work longer, pay more taxes, accept fewer benefits, and generally be content with our lot in life.
Do not be concerned that employers are required to reduce health benefits or that you must pay more, 401(k) savings have replaced traditional pension plans, and the gap between replacement income at retirement and Social Security is growing even at the modest $50,000 annual income level. We are counseled that there is no immediate problem.
Younger workers cannot trust the dangerous stock market, even though at each election they are promised eternal prosperity and that usually means higher stock prices.
Sadly, though most of their retirement funds will be dependent on the market, that extra 2 percent or so they may wish to invest is too expensive for the government.
Perhaps if Congress followed the advice of many Blade readers, they would leave the farm house, come into the barnyard, and experience for themselves the burden of the other animals.
In a form letter, Stephen Staelin, Toledo Zoo board president, attempts to assuage the concerns of medical professionals writing the board to support Dr. Tim Reichard. Instead, I and many of those receiving the letter are acutely offended. Perhaps this is simply more of the zoo's "management culture problem."
His response to the firing was to dig in and continue to justify the status quo. Among the disappointing quotes are: "This was an extremely difficult decision for zoo management but one that in the long-term was felt to be in the best interest of the zoo," and "Contrary to what you have heard, the board has never declined to meet with him."
While perhaps technically correct, the whole truth is better understood by Mr. Staelin's own media comments, concluding that the firing was a done thing, an internal personnel matter and not open to discussion. In a March 8 quote in The Blade, he stated the board would "absolutely not" consider reinstatement of Dr. Reichard.
Without Blade and public pressure there would be no hearing, no review panel, and no solutions on the horizon.
He continued: "We want to assure you that this is not an animal-care issue. I'm confident that all of the animals in our collection are receiving the best care possible." Such misinformed statements contrast sharply with the stark realities at the zoo in recent years and even days. It was mailed four days after an elephant was wrongly injected with mineral oil for lack of veterinary supervision.
Indeed, management, operations, and animal care need an unbiased review, and the same applies to the zoo board for its possible role in perpetuating the current problems.
Phillip T. Robinson
of Zoological Medicine
The chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and his cronies should resign. Far from doing their duty as public watchdogs, it appears that they believe their job is to facilitate and protect the ability of utilities like Columbia Gas to reap ever-increasing profits while customers find it more difficult to heat their homes.
It is unfathomable that the PUCO would even consider granting Columbia a 10-cent rate increase for April. Columbia Gas foolishly put itself at the mercy of uncertain and unpredictable market forces by buying more than one third of its natural gas on the spot market.
Fortunately for Columbia Gas, they have the PUCO to make sure its ineptitude will be paid for by its customers, ensuring profits no matter what it does.
I think the PUCO should immediately begin doing the job it has been appointed to do. It should be responsible to the taxpayers who pay their salaries instead of the lobbyists who take them to lunch, or worse, their employers, for whom they will, no doubt, be working for themselves when their terms expire.
I call on the PUCO to reject the Columbia Gas rate increase for northwest Ohio.
Leon C. Blackburn, Jr.
East Pearl Street
It's OK to federalize the abortion and assisted suicide issues, but wrong to pre-empt a Florida state judge in the Terri Schiavo case? Are there no bounds for those promoting the culture of death?
EDWIN F. DURIVAGE
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