Educators and transporters of students disabilities are truly special people. I write that with no pun intended.
After all, as many of us have learned, we all have "special needs." It's just that some people are born with many more "special" needs than others, and those who have made it their life-long work to help children with disabilities inspire awe. An award-wining film by Adrian Esposito, man with Asperger's Syndrome, proves just how valuable these teachers can be in the lives of the developmentally disabled, especially when countless numbers of others grew up or lived their entire lives not knowing that such benevolence existed.
The idea for "We Can Shine: From Institutions to Independence" originated when the 22-year-old Esposito wondered what his life would be like if he was born in 1944, long before the Americans with Disabilities Act, IDEA and a host of other state and federal programs that he and thousands upon thousands of others like him have utilized to live a full, productive life.
Esposito was lucky, he learned, as he graduated from Eastern Monroe Career Center, part of the Monroe No. 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services in upstate New York with a certificate in radio and television broadcasting. In 2009, Esposito started his own independent film company, Espocinema, and has since produced four films, including "We Can Shine."
The documentary tells the horrific tale of adults with disabilities who suffered through horrendous conditions at the Willowbrook State School, a state institution in Staten Island that was finally closed in 1987 after abusing patients for several decades. Journalist Geraldo Rivera helped uncover many of the atrocities with his 1972 film "The Forgotten." It brings tears to think that these people had to endure such mistreatment before things would get better for later generations.
But the film also reminds us all of the vital roles played by tens of thousands of professionals who are advocates for people with disabilities, especially within the student transportation community that assists these children with realizing improved mobility and a better chance for an education. And, I think, it reminds us that it's all worth the while.
Watch a trailer of "We Can Shine."