Friday, March 13, 2009

This is why we believe in the Central Park Challenge

Last week, Dr. Bernadette Flynn (pictured), Director of the New York League for Early Learning--one of YAI's member agencies--received a friendly but mysterious e-mail.

The subject was: “Your Former Student Andre” and all it said was “THANK YOU!”

Bernadette remembered Andre, who was one of her very first students in the mid-1980s, when she was a new teacher at what is now the NYL William O’Connor Bay Ridge School in Brooklyn.

“Andre was a handsome and bright child,” Bernadette recalled. “Diagnoses for PDD or Asperger's were not really given back then, but he had speech delays and stayed to himself.” Andre’s family remained connected to the school for a few years after Andre graduated, but then lost touch.

Bernadette responded to Andre's e-mail to say that it was good to hear from him and to ask why he was thanking her. He wrote back:

I just graduated from Brooklyn College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. When I was two-and-a-half years old my parents were told that I would never go beyond the fifth grade. I was happy to disprove that analysis. Thank you for all your support when I needed you.

Andre’s message brought tears to Bernadette’s eyes. “It just speaks to what the YAI/NIPD Network is,” she said.

Andre’s story really is about the YAI Spirit and the “can-do” attitude that infuses all of our programs. It is about never giving up hope and working together to make dreams come true. It is a reminder that every day, each and every one of you has the opportunity to truly change a life and to create hope, opportunity and success that will last a lifetime. When you participate in the Central Park Challenge, you are providing hope to all of the Andres of the world.

Remember, if you have stories like this one, share them with us a cpc@yai.org. For information on services for people with autism, please visit the YAI Autism Center.

If you're interested in the Central Park Challenge, please visit the official Website for more information. Thank you for reading our blog.

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