Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Autistic man seeks NJ Assembly seat

From PolitickerNJ.com:

(Christopher) Gagliardi, a 28-year-old Englewood resident, was born with infantile (sic) autism. Doctors would eventually advise his mother, Lynda Grace Monahan, to put him in a group home and medicate him with Ritalin....

Gagliardi caught the political bug at an early age, attributing it to his mother's involvement in Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign in the 1960's. He wanted to run for governor, but didn't meet the minimum age requirements, and his letter to the Democratic Party expressing interest in being a delegate to the Democratic National Convention was ignored. So Gagliardi figured the legislature was in need of someone who will represent the mentally and physically challenged.

"During the time in the 80's and 90's, people who had challenges were either rejected in society or not recognized for their contributions to society," he said. "But with the recent breakthroughs in civil rights with the physically and mentally challenged, I thought it would be appropriate to stand up and take responsibility."

Gagliardi graduated from Ridgefield Memorial High School in 2002, where he was student council president – the first special education student to ever hold the position, he said.

The bit about the group home reminds me of a line I use when speaking on the subject: Dr. Leo Kanner, who first used the term "autism", told my mom when I was all of 4, "Mrs. KamaAina, your child is autistic. I recommend that you place him in an institution and get on with your life."

Years later, she would eventually heed the learned Dr. Kanner's advice -- but I'm not sure Yale was the sort of institution he had had in mind!

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