Carmel Valley: Father recounts struggle to find wellness for his developmentally disabled son

By Arthur Lightbourn


For technical writer Stephen Gallup and his wife, Judy, life changed dramatically with the birth of their developmentally disabled son, Joseph, 26 years ago, in San Diego.

Nobody knew what caused Joseph’s disability.

Stephen Gallup (Photo: Jon Clark)

Doctors, in 1985, could offer no definitive answers or plan of action.

Perhaps a toxin had invaded his mother’s body before the infant’s birth.

Maybe the long, difficult labor itself was to blame or the resultant suction delivery.

Or maybe the cause was genetic.

Gallup and his wife were told by their HMO pediatrician that a CAT scan indicated that the temporal lobes of Joseph’s brain were smaller than normal.

“That was basically taken as an explanation for anything that was wrong,” Gallup said. “There was no treatment proposed. And we were advised to get counseling so that we could move on with our lives.

“But it’s hard to move on with your life when you have a child that is depending on you and all he could do was cry.”

At home, Joseph cried continually (“It’s colic, don’t worry,” they were told) and thrashed around, as if in pain, on his back in his crib for hours turning his head from side to side and wearing off the hair off the back of his head.

After consulting with physicians for more than a year and concluding that doctors could do nothing to help, Gallup and his wife, a former special education teacher, decided to take matters into their own hands.

Over time, they realized that Joseph was not meeting any of the benchmarks of normal growth. He wasn’t able to crawl or interact normally, much less stand, walk or speak.

“I declared war on my son’s disability,” Gallup recalled.

Gallup describes the efforts made, the victories achieved, the “wrong turns” taken, and the disappointments encountered in pursuit of wellness for his son in the soon-to-be-published memoir “What About the Boy? A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son.”

We interviewed Gallup, now 60, a resident of Carmel Valley, father of three and technical writer with Qualcomm, in the editorial offices of this newspaper.

His self-published memoir is scheduled for release in September and is currently available on pre-order from


The writing of the memoir began as a journal and a form of therapy for Gallup as he and his wife embarked on what was to become an all- consuming mission to attain wellness for their son.

Three years ago, when Gallup read that submissions were being accepted for entry in the San Diego Book Awards competition, he decided to submit the-then completed memoir manuscript in the hopes of at least receiving some “feedback.”

“They told me I was a finalist, and when I attended the Awards, I discovered to my amazement that it had won first place in the Unpublished Memoir category.

“That was the encouragement I needed to go ahead and pursue publishing it,” he said. He formed his own publishing company, Lestrygonian Books, to publish his book.

“This is my statement,” he said. “I may write something else in my life, but this is the one I had to write before I die.”



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