Posted in Inclusive Practices, Student Leaders

Conner’s Leadership & Conner’s Law

What an opportunity I had today! As a father and as an educator, I was so inspired today by my new hero Conner Cummings!

If you don’t know Conner, you soon will. Conner is an up-and-coming 23 year old young man who is a nationally recognized advocate, connected to the top researchers in the world of Autism, and now has a law passed in his name! Oh…and by the way, he has the superpower of Autism.

DETERMINED

Today, I was able to tag along and support Conner and his family as a representative of the Autism Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) as he was recognized for his work with Conner’s Law in the Virginia General Assembly. Conner and his mother Sharon have been leaders and advocates for families to be able to receive support for their adult children that have disabilities. As the overall numbers of children with disabilities increase, so has the amount and type of support needed for these children as they grow into adulthood.

SUMMARY AS PASSED SENATE: Child support for disabled child over the age of 18 (Conner’s Law). Provides that a court may order child support for any child over the age of 18 who is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled if such disability existed prior to the child’s reaching the age of 18 or the age of 19 if the child was a full-time high school student, not self-supporting, and was living in the home of the parent seeking child support. Current requirements that the child also be unable to live independently, unable to support himself, and reside in the home of the parent seeking child support remain unchanged. The bill also provides that an individual who was denied such support prior to July 1, 2015, is eligible to petition the court for support for a disabled child. This bill incorporates SB 957 and is identical to HB 2383.  See more information on this bill on the Virginia’s Legislative Information System.

Virginia Delegate Jim LeMunyon invited Conner and Sharon his family to be recognized for the leadership that Conner has demonstrated. He gave us a shout out in the House of Delegates and later we received another one by State Senator Barbara Favola and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam in the Senate chamber. Others sponsors of the bill were Delegate Kathy Byron, State Senator Adam Ebbin, State Senator Janet Howell, State Senator Scott Surovell, and State Senator Jennifer Wexton. Standing there next to Conner and his mother Sharon, listening to these lawmakers in the oldest legislative body in North America dote over his accomplishments, was absolutely humbling and was such an honor. Check out House Joint Resolution No. 382 commending Conner.

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I talk to my school team all the time about developing student leaders and the amazing potential that each and every one of them have. Here was a living example standing there right next to me being recognized by state Delegates, Senators, and the Lieutenant Governor. Conner was confident and determined to make a difference. Nothing was holding him back. Whoa! This is exactly what we are striving for!

BELIEVING

Conner isn’t giving up on his life based on his disability. He is making a special life for himself and modeling for others with disabilities that they too can have a meaningful life! In his speeches and writings he often talks about the word “believe” and that “everyone who has disabilities can live a life, enjoy a life, believe in a life – just like yours.”

“everyone who has disabilities can live a life, enjoy a life, believe in a life – just like yours”

…and he has developed a brand, as you can see with his affection for Mickey Mouse…

…and he is becoming a professional photographer

…and he is active on his Twitter profile

…and he has about 12,000 likes on his Facebook page where he reflects on his journey…

No that wasn’t a typo, I wrote 12,000. How many do you have? His goal is 50,000 now. Let’s help him get there! If you do nothing else, check out his Facebook page. As I’m typing this he’s giving advice to parents about how to help their children better communicate and be like him. Just amazing! What have you done today?

I hope my kids will be as confident and actively involved in helping others like Conner. I hope all of our sons and daughters will be.

What kind of society would that look like?

The best kind.

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