NEPA autism trailblazer lights the way for the world

George Shadie's advocacy has been a game-changer

The Sue Henry Show
April 02, 2017 - 9:19 pm

     George Shadie and his wife Claire heard the word “autism” for the first time in their doctor’s office. It was a diagnosis given to their son, Alex.

     “It was tough, especially when you get a diagnosis and then you’re told your child is never going to speak and you’re going to be institutionalizing,” Shadie said during our recent interview.  His son had self-injurious behavior and George sometimes found him covered in blood in the morning because he had been biting his hand through the night.

     Undaunted, George and Claire set out to find out all they could about autism. They then took the information they gathered and shared it with the community, speaking at various club meetings. They would tell those gathered that before the year was out, they too would know someone with autism.

     After Claire’s death in 2001, George went it alone. The pair had formed SAFE, standing for Supporting Autism and Families Everywhere. George learned all he could about behavior modification, a two-way street involving the child and parent, because both needed to make changes. He taught parents about the right to a proper education for their children. He instructed them on how to map out an Individualized Education Program. He put together support groups for parents and nights where young people with autism could be together. Often, these children were very lonely and isolated.

     Now, most everyone has heard the word “autism.” World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, afforded many to take to Facebook and turn a photo blue and share a story about someone in their life with the diagnosis.

     True to the prediction of George and Claire, most of us know someone with autism. As George points out, “It’s a population that can accomplish great things. If Albert Einstein were alive today, he’d be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.”

     George Shadie will step down from the leadership role he holds in SAFE this year. It’s nice to see a guy from Northeastern Pennsylvania played such a prominent role in educating the area, country and world that it’s possible to face reality square in the face and find solutions, instead of choosing despair.  

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