Understanding Bipolar Disorder – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

As part of the second annual Disability Awareness Month lecture series, the Colleges will host two guest speakers who will offer firsthand accounts on autism and bipolar disorder – two illnesses that are surrounded by many misconceptions. Authors Ralph James Savarese, the parent of a son with autism, and David Lovelace, who suffers with bipolar disorder, will offer upcoming talks.

Lovelace’s talk will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 6 in the Sanford Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.

Savarese is a poet and an associate professor of English at Grinnell College, who has become a promoter of neurodiversity and inclusion since the adoption of his son D.J. He and his wife, Emily, an autism professional, adopted an abused, non-speaking boy, and have since through love and patience helped him grow.  Savarese’s novel “Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption” chronicles the obstacles all three have overcome to assimilate D.J. into the public school system. The book concludes with a chapter written by D.J. himself, now a straight-A student in a regular school.

“At two and one-half, D.J. couldn’t talk, he perseverated (repeated actions), and was generally unresponsive. Worse, he had been neglected, abused, and abandoned when his birth parents and several foster parents wrote him off as too much to handle,” wrote Donna Chavez in her book review. “Armed with clear principles on how children with autism ought to be cared for, Emily and Ralph started to work with D.J., eventually adopting him. Their road together continues to be rough, but today the preteen boy attends mainstream classes and, as the final, in-his-own-words chapter confirms, possesses marvelous perceptive and communicative skills.”

Savarese’s talk will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 26 in the Sanford Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.

The second speaker, David Lovelace, writer, poet and carpenter, will offer his firsthand account of his and his family’s lifelong struggles with bipolar disorder. He, his mother, father and brother all suffer from the manic-depressive illness known to cause shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function.  Lovelace was a teenager when his first paralyzing depression hit; he was in college when he first became manic.

He is the author of “Scattershot: A memoir of my bipolar family” that was published by Penguin Group in September 2008. Since the book was released, Lovelace has shared his story through several national media outlets including Boston Globe Magazine, NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” and Publisher Weekly. As a poet, he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Patterson Review’s Allen Ginsberg Award.

“Scattershot is Lovelace’s poignant, humorous, and vivid account of the disease’s effects on his family, and his gripping exploits as he spent his life running from-and finally learning to embrace-the madness encoded on his genes,” the publisher says in the review. “Punctuated by a series of truly harrowing experiences, this devastating yet gentle portrait of the Lovelace family strips away the shame associated with bipolar disorder, and celebrates the profound creative gifts that come with it.”

Susan Pliner, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and assistant professor of education at Hobart and William Smith, organized the event in conjunction with Disability Awareness Month which strives to increase awareness of disabilities and shift both stereotypes and prejudices about them.

Lovelace’s talk will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 6 in the Sanford Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.

Both authors’ books are available in the College Store.