By Daniel J. Vance


  If you have enjoyed the column "Disabilities," be sure to thank your editor. It has been published now in 40 newspapers nationwide, with a new paper coming on board almost weekly, most recently the Green Bay Press-Gazette (Wisconsin) and Hillsboro Argus (Oregon). Now for our quarterly mailbag—and feedback from readers.

  Apparently, my column on dissociative identity disorder (DID) and its disabling attributes perked up a few ears.

  From The Good News in South Florida, West Palm Beach Edition: "I read your article on dissociative identity disorder. Please note, however, that DID's status as a valid disorder is hotly debated within the psychological community."

  This reader is right in saying debate exists. However, the American Psychiatric Association does recognize DID, and has laid out diagnostic criteria in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The 1970's book "Sybil" popularized it. Before 1994 DID was known as multiple personality disorder.

  From The Desert Advocate near Phoenix, Arizona: A reader pointed out that childhood sexual abuse has only been correlated with DID, and not proven as the cause. A reading of Sidran Institute's Elizabeth Vermilyea's words could have been interpreted that way. My Arizona reader is correct: no evidence exists of childhood sexual abuse causing DID, only that there is a strong correlation. Elizabeth Vermilyea agrees. 

  From Treasure Valley Christian News of Boise, Idaho: "I am concerned by the lack of attention [paid] to people with emotional problems and the services available to them, especially the poor."

  In months ahead I'll write on hidden disabilities like schizophrenia. Given you are reading a faith-oriented newspaper, you may have heard of a faith-based group in Boise that is working to build a hospital there for people with hidden disabilities. Perhaps you've heard of The Children of Hope Family Hospital.

  And finally, an Internet reader from Michigan: "I've heard ultrasound can detect spina bifida in pregnancy and that surgery before birth can close up the opening. Do you have much information on that?"

  In utero surgery for spina bifida is relatively new, but the early news is encouraging. After birth these children aren't nearly as likely to need a shunt to drain off cerebro-spinal fluid—a major benefit. Shunts can become infected or clogged, and a person with spina bifida may need multiple shunt revisions over a lifetime. For more information read www.fetal-surgery.com.

  [Contact Mr. Vance at www.danieljvance.com. Copyright 2003 by Daniel J. Vance.]