New NY governor shows how “All Kids Can”

I was lucky enough to be on Long Island last week when they made the announcement about New York’s new governor. I’d flown to New York by myself – well, with my Seeing Eye dog — to visit elementary schools there. The idea was to promote my children’s book and teach the kids how Seeing Eye dogs work.

In the end, I talked with the kids about politics, too. They’d heard David Paterson was going to be their new governor and wanted to know what it meant to be “legally blind.” They also wanted to know where he went to school when he was a kid.

An AP story reports that David Paterson was included in regular classrooms in the 1960s, long before inclusion was popular.

When New York City schools refused to let him attend mainstream classes, his parents established residency on Long Island, where they found a school that would let him go to regular classes.

The kids wondered why he couldn’t have gone to normal schools in New York City — It doesn’t seem extraordinary to have kids with autism and other disabilities in their classrooms. They felt lucky their new governor went to school on Long Island, just like they did.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Today, more than 95 percent of students with autism and other disabilities receive some or all of their education in regular classrooms. All Kids Can helps make this happen. A charitable trust, All Kids Can is a five-year, $25 million commitment to making life easier for children with autism and other disabilities.

Through the All Kids Can trust, CVS helps non-profit organizations like Easter Seals raise awareness in schools and in local communities about the importance of inclusion. In 2007,$350,000 in All Kids Can Fund grants went to support Easter Seals affiliates across the country.

It’s programs like “All Kids Can” that leave schoolkids shrugging their shoulders, wondering what the big deal is about having a kid with a disability in their class. Now with Governor Paterson leading the way, maybe it will become more and more common to see people with disabilities in higher positions. I can look forward to a day when schoolkids will shrug their shoulders and wonder why, way back in 2008, everyone thought it was such a big deal that a guy who had a disability held such an important job


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