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A Brief But Spectacular take on how everybody can learn


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

John Yang: Allan Goldstein is an author and lecturer and the guardian of his younger brother Fred. Fred's a survivor of the notorious Willowbrook State School, an institution on Staten Island for people with disabilities.

In 1972, local news reports brought national attention to the schools neglect and abuse of its residents. Once Fred got out, Goldstein realized his brothers many talents that had never been nurtured at Willowbrook. Tonight, he shares his Brief But Spectacular take on how everybody can learn.

Allan Goldstein, Senior Lecturer, NYU's Engineering: My brother Fred is a survivor of the Willowbrook State School. It's an institution that was built for 1,500 and ended up housing 54, 5,300. It became a dumping ground. It was school in name only, and he got out when he was 20. So he spent 16 years there.

Fred has strong emotional intelligence. But if you give him an IQ test, he comes off having neurological impairments. My brother is probably the reason why I do everything I do.

The care for people with intellectual disabilities has changed immensely since the 50s when Fred first went into the state school. When mom died, I became Fred's guardian. He was 45, which means I was 49. It's when I became the Guardian that I discovered that Fred had been forgotten.

He was in a group home for 20 years. And we got him out of there. What we found from Freddy was an artist with assistance. He would write poetry. There are many, many talents there. He had learned that he can dictate his future. His poetry is presented at the New York City Poetry Festival on Governors Island in the early 2000s.

I think the biggest lesson that I got is that all people can learn and they just learn in different ways. He chose to create this course that puts people with and without disabilities in the same classroom to start thinking differently because a lot of the folks who may not speak clearly or not verbal, the students learn how to communicate in a different way.

And what I'm stressing is that living differently is natural, and that you're doing everything with two arms and two legs and speaking a certain way is not particularly the only way that's considered ableism if we accommodate everybody who get on with their life.

What my students walk away with, is that it's okay to be different. Accepting difference, diversity. That's the secret for success.

My name is Alan Goldstein. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on everybody can learn.

Say bye Fred.

Fred Goldstein, Allan Goldstein Brother: Bye Fred.

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