Author explores parenting, adversity

Del Mar resident Gayle Slate recently released her first book, “Dana’s Legacy: From Heartbreak to Healing.” The autobiography tells of raising Dana, a child with cerebral palsy.

The book was released on Feb. 1 and 230 people attended a private reading event at Fairbanks Ranch on Feb. 8.

“I think this book is not only about disabilities, it’s about how to get through life’s difficult times,” Slate, 73, said. “Everyone has to go through adversity and it has the universal themes of survival, growth and personal development.”

Slate said it’s a book for anyone who has asked: “How can I survive this? Am I strong enough to carry on?”

“A person of worth and beauty lives within the disabled child’s body,” she wrote. “Do your best to see it there through your tears.”

Slate had her daughter Dana when she was 20 years old. Her image of a storybook motherhood was quickly shattered when she learned that Dana had cerebral palsy.

“At the time, people were very unforgiving of disabilities,” Slate said, recalling times when people would stare and ask her and her “strange baby” to leave.

Slate volunteered for three years at UCLA Medical Center, offering support to parents in her situation. But she was asked to leave after three years by a new doctor who felt uncomfortable with someone who was not a social worker in this role.

Slate lost Dana at 14 years old in 1970. After a long period of hurt and mourning, Slate went back to school and got her masters in psychology and marriage, family and child counseling. She went to work right away helping families with children with disabilities - at the time there were few therapists doing that kind of work.

Slate moved to San Diego from Los Angeles in 1993 and in 1997, founded Kids Included Together, a nonprofit that aims to get children and adults with disabilities involved in recreational and social activities. It started with a small pilot program at the Jewish Community Center in La Jolla and has now expanded to 54 affiliate sites in San Diego County and 22 states.

Slate said everything happens for a reason. Having Dana as a child led her to build a life helping other families.

“All of my work stems from her inspiration,” Slate said of Dana. “All my work comes out of the meaning of her life and how she brought me to this moment.”

The book is available at all booksellers. For more information, visit