In celebration of Autism Awareness and Acceptance month, students at three Birch Family Services schools in Queens were surprised by special guest Lieutenant Governor of New York Kathy Hochul this week.
Hochul read the best-selling book “My Brother Charlie” to the children enrolled in the organization, which is dedicated to empowering individuals with autism and developmental disabilities to lead fulfilling lives. Birch Family Services hosted several events throughout April that focused on spreading love, kindness, respect and understanding.
Hundreds of students at nine Birch Family Services schools in New York City — including Long Island City Early Childhood Center, Springfield Gardens Education Center and The Phyllis L. Susser School for Exceptional Children in Queens — participated in the events, which welcomed several “real-life superheroes” for special readings, including employees of Pfizer, alumni of their program and Lt. Gov. Hochul.
In a video for students, Hochul read “My Brother Charlie” by actress Holly Robinson Peete, a heartwarming story based on Peete’s son, who has autism.
“What a beautiful story about Callie talking about her brother, Charlie, who has autism,” Hochul said in the video. “Everybody we know knows someone and loves someone with autism, and this book will help you understand why they may be different, but they’re really special and they’ve got a lot of love to give.”
Participants in the organization’s New Frontier employment and social skills program, who are on the autism spectrum, read children’s books about autism acceptance to pre-school students and answered their questions.
Students also participated in art contests and took the “Kindness Pledge,” which reminds them to treat others and themselves with respect.
“I promise to be kind on this very day. To show all acts of kindness, in a special way. To friends I know both big and small, I will catch them if they fall. To those that need a helping hand, I will guide them when I can,” the pledge states. “I promise to say ‘thank you,’ ‘excuse me now’ and ‘please.’ These three words will show my kindness, even when I sneeze! If I love myself, then I can show to others, that love begins with kindness, for all of my sisters and brothers.”