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A Grandfather's Message To His Autistic Grandson

Dan Gottlieb hosts a mental-health call-in radio show on WHYY. In 1979, was in a near-fatal car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Dan Gottlieb hosts a mental-health call-in radio show on WHYY. In 1979, was in a near-fatal car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Family therapist and call-in radio host Dan Gottlieb has helped many people through some of the most difficult passages in their lives. He's also endured a great deal of physical and emotional pain of his own: More than 30 years ago, a car accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Four years ago, Gottlieb wrote a series of letters about being different to his young grandson Sam, who had been diagnosed with autism. The letters were collected in Gottlieb's book, Letters to Sam.

Gottlieb has now authored a second book about his unique relationship with his grandson, called The Wisdom of Sam: Observations on Life from an Uncommon Child. Gottlieb details how seeing the world from a different perspective is illuminating for both grandfather and grandson.

In a 2006 interview on Fresh Air, Gottlieb explained to Terry Gross how surviving his car accident changed his way of looking at the world.

"When my neck broke, my soul began to breathe," he says. "I became the person I always dreamt I could be and never would have been if I didn't break my neck. And with each time I faced death, I became more of who I am and less worried about what others might think of me."

Gottlieb hosts a weekly call-in counseling show, called Voices in the Family, on WHYY in Philadelphia. He also wrote a column about mental health issues in The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1993 to 2008.

This interview was originally broadcast on April 25, 2006.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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