Quote: "We must be diligent at breaking down the barriers to hiring people with special needs, which includes dispelling misconceptions and stereotypes..."
"All my son ever wanted was to belong and to feel included," said a tearful Holly Robinson Peete about the Los Angeles Dodgers recently hiring her son RJ Peete to work at the clubhouse. "It's so powerful for a major league baseball team to be there for him." RJ was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of three.
Peete, who was the guest speaker at an intimate breakfast hosted by Gatepath in partnership with the Sacred Heart Preparatory, says she shares her son's journey publically and on her reality show "For Peete's Sake" hoping it will inspire corporate America to give other people like her son the same kinds of inclusive opportunities. According to the United States Department of Labor, only 20 percent of adults with disabilities in the US are employed, compared to their neurotypical peers at 68.5 percent.
"From the classroom to the workplace, we are committed to expanding inclusive opportunities for those with special needs and disabilities," said Gatepath CEO Bryan Neider. "We know that by sharing personal stories like Holly's, we are raising awareness in our community about benefits of inclusion and the critical need for supportive programs."
Gatepath is a nonprofit that provides a wide range of support services from Early Intervention and pediatric therapy, to job training and placement for adults, reaching more than 14,500 people with special needs in the Bay Area.
"We must be diligent at breaking down the barriers to hiring people with special needs, which includes dispelling misconceptions and stereotypes," Neider said. "Young people like RJ deserve the same opportunity to show their abilities and skills as everyone else."
The conversation was moderated by "NBC Bay Area News" journalist Diane Dwyer who asked Peete about her recently released book, "Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express", which was written in collaboration with her 18-year-old twin children RJ and Ryan Elizabeth Peete.
"We knew it was important to give a young man with autism a voice," Peete said. "Many people on the spectrum are non-verbal and have trouble communicating. Having a voice is really important."
Following the event, Peete signed copies of "Same But Different" for attendees. "The book is very touching and really highlights the challenges and triumphs the entire family goes through when raising a child with autism," said Neider. "It was truly an inspiring conversation for everyone who attended."
For more than 95 years, Gatepath has been "Turning Disabilities Into Possibilities." As one of the premier nonprofits in Silicon Valley, we provide inclusive programs for people with special needs at all stages and ages. These programs enable Gatepath to create opportunities of greater independence for children, youth, and adults with special needs and disabilities, empowering both individuals and families through diverse, individualized education and support services. Our dedicated staff encourage physical, developmental, and social well-being at all levels, including early intervention and therapy for children, inclusive preschools, support services for families, social communication programs for youth, vocational training for adults, and employment placement.
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