Eunice Kennedy Shriver was buried today. An advocate for people with physical and developmental disabilities, Shriver was a co-founder of the Special Olympics, an organization that means a lot to people at Easter Seals.
I guess I don’t talk very much about my part-time job at Easter Seals Headquarters, huh? I’m the Interactive Community Coordinator there. That’s a fancy-schmancy title that means I moderate the Easter Seals Autism Blog. You have Easter Seals to thank — or blame — for this Safe & Sound blog; it was at Easter Seals that I learned to use the blogging tools.
I’ve learned a lot about autism at Easter Seals, too, and I’ve met some pretty wonderful people who happen to have the disorder. One of them is Maurice Snell.
Maurice Snell is a young man with a college degree and a job. Maurice also happens to have autism. Unlike many of his peers with autism, Maurice has strong cognitive skills, which make it easier for him to learn. After his first birthday, however, Maurice was nonverbal. No one had an answer until, at age six, he was diagnosed with autism.
When Maurice was seven, he and his family visited the Easter Seals Therapeutic Day School in Chicago. They liked what they saw, and Maurice was enrolled immediately. During Maurice’s 10 years at the school, a team of professionals helped him develop his speech, language and communication skills. They helped with his social skills, too: he learned to swim and play baseball, and he competed in the Special Olympics. Today, Maurice works as a classroom aide and mentor at his former school.
When I heard the sad news about Eunice Kennedy Shriver, I contacted Maurice to see if he’d be willing to give us a quote describing his experience in Special Olympics.
I was an active participant in the Special Olympics during my days at the Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research. I enjoyed the opportunities to participate in various events and meet many different people. To me, Special Olympics kept me going throughout my life. It motivated me to achieve higher standards and make me grow as a man. I’m grateful for Special Olympics and Easter Seals’ involvement in Special Olympics.
I don’t think I can say it any better than Maurice did. So many, many, many lives have been changed for the better thanks to Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s work. Thank you, Eunice. And thank you, too, Maurice. I’m glad Special Olympics helped bring you out of your shell. And I’m really, really glad we’re friends.