Lake George is on the leading edge of a new initiative designed to help both local governments and residents ‘Think Differently’ and accept people with disabilities more readily, particularly those on the autism spectrum. Lake George has taken on the new initiative, following its successful implementation downstate in Dutchess County.
In the Capital Region/Southern Adirondack area, Lake George joins the city of Troy, who also adopted the initiative this summer. Think Differently came about thanks to Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, who has a daughter on the spectrum.
“‘Think Differently’ is Dutchess County’s call to ensure that every resident is respected and embraced by the community.” Molinaro told The Post Star. A news release on Molinaro’s website states: “Towns, cities and villages throughout New York State have answered that call, adopting resolutions that encourage supportive environments for residents with special needs.”
What could an implementation of this initiative in Lake George look like? If it follows the successful Dutchess County program, businesses could receive free training, the public could enjoy special movie nights that are more conducive to those on the spectrum, and the local government could hire someone to act as a deputy commissioner of special needs.
A look at the Dutchess County program
Dutchess County has developed a free training program, available to local businesses at the Anderson Center for Autism, on how to make their business more inclusive and welcoming. The aim is that those with disabilities will now feel more accepted and respected at the workplace – this could subsequently lead to them living more independent, full lives.
A free movie night for families with children on the autism spectrum has also been implemented. The theater turns the bass volume and the lights down low as loud sounds and bright lights can be triggers for those on the spectrum. “We had a family come last year and it was the first time they had come to a movie together as a family,” Molinaro told The Post Star.
A major part of the Think Differently measure in Dutchess County has been to hire a deputy commissioner of special needs whose job it will be to advocate for and help families with special needs; currently, the law enforcement system can be difficult for those on the spectrum to comprehend and adhere to. For example, recently in North Miami, Florida, an unarmed autistic adult was shot at by police – the bullet hit his therapist instead of him – because he was believed to be armed and did not comply with police demands.
If more law enforcement were educated on how to interact with people on the spectrum or with other disabilities, perhaps incidents like this one could be minimized or eliminated in the future.
What’s Next For Lake George?
As an area that attracts tourists, Lake George is a perfect place to implement Think Differently. “We certainly felt it was worthwhile, especially as a resort where we get people from all walks of life,” Lake George Mayor Robert Blais told The Post Star.
Blais is looking at Dutchess County as a model for creating more programs and more initiatives to support Think Differently.
- The Post Star: ‘Think Differently’ initiative supports people with disabilities