Michael P. Balzano who rose from an uneducated garbage man with undiagnosed Dyslexia to become a labor advisor to six presidents discusses what the ADA means to him
Hi, I'm Dave Gardy for WebAble TV from our studios here near Washington DC in preparation for the ADA 30th anniversary. With us on Zoom right now, coming to us from Virginia, is Michael P. Balzano. Michael, thank you for joining us.
Pleasure to be here.
Just wanna touch base a little bit about your book that you just came out with because you have an interesting past and you tell the story in the autobiography. Can you just give us a quick synopsis of your disability and how it evolved?
Yes, I was an undiagnosed learning-disabled child. I'm dyslexic, I've got ADHD, and a little bit of Asperger's. I read at the fourth-grade level when I was 21 years old. I turned my life around by getting into an apprenticeship to learn how to grind lenses and went on from there.
Excellent. You also have a storied career. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Well, yes. I went on to night school. I got my high school equivalency. And then I went on to college. I graduated magna. And then I got a full scholarship to Georgetown and I got a PhD from Georgetown. I went to work in the Nixon White House, I was the third-ranking Democrat in the Nixon White House, and I served six other presidents over the last 30 years.
Amazing turnaround story. What was it that really turned you around?
I believe it was the apprenticeship because it gave me the discipline to take A, B, C in order. You know, you learn how to take orders. You learn how to execute operations. And it gave me organization.
Now, regarding the ADA, a lot of things have changed in the 30 years of the ADA, and one of those things is, the ADA wasn't around when you were a child with dyslexia but you would've probably been in a public school situation where, today, you would be having what they call an IEP and special attention because the people are trained, as part of the attention to learning disabilities under the ADA, to give attention to those kids with learning disabilities, like you had. What are your thoughts on that as we head into the ADA 30th anniversary?
Well, you know, I published an op-ed piece in the Sun Gazette on July 16th where I talked about the possibility of homeschooling exploding. And it is. And what I say there is, at least in school systems, you have many skilled teachers who can identify a learning-disabled situation. What I do is I alert parents to the fact that they might have a situation where a child is exhibiting learning behaviors and not see it. I wrote that book, "Dyslexic: My Journey," I wrote the book to provide help and hope for parents with learning-disabled children. I put my entire... The majority of the book is obviously there, but the most important thing is the website also contains the appendix which identifies symptoms of learning behavior early and identifies a whole series of organizations where one can get help.
So I understand that, because of that, the back end of this book which is all appendix with resources, you're actually offering that out free to the public in this time of COVID when so many kids are home to assist parents with going to those resources to help them with diagnosing learning disabilities and best practices to respond to them. Is that right?
Absolutely. I wrote this book to provide help and hope for parents with children like me. And we're offering it free.
Excellent. So if people wanna get those resources, what is the website?
The website is, you have to go online, and it's michaelpbalzano.com. That's the website for the book.
And we'll put that on the screen. That's www.michaelpbalzano.com. Go to the Resources tab and that's where all the appendixes that are in the book are also listed. You can go to specific institutions like Mayo Clinic.
Everything is there.
It's a tremendous compilation, and we appreciate that. Any final thoughts about the ADA for the next 30 years?
Well, I think we're gonna have a lot of trouble with learning-disabled children because the schools can't, they might be able to identify it but they're not really treating it. I think the book goes into that. It's very expensive to treat, and local school budgets do not have the money for it.
Yup. Again, that's michaelpbalzano.com. It's on the screen. Thank you for joining us, Michael, via Zoom from Virginia.
Thank you, sir. Pleasure to be with you.
I'm Dave Gardy for WebAble TV in preparation for the ADA 30th anniversary webcast. Thanks for joining us.