Updated 05/19/2011 04:20 PM
Grandchildren influence state senator
A state senator draws on his personal experiences as a grandfather to help guide his decision making. Our C.J. Spang has more on Senator Roy McDonald and the influence of his two grandsons.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Jacob is eight and David is six. They like to run, play and explore like most kids their age and they have autism.
"It is very challenging and we take it day by day," said their mother, Stephanie Veitch. "We deal with a lot of issues that probably other families also deal with, but we have that added layer of autism on top of it."
Saratoga Bridges is an organization that supports people with disabilities. One of the autism resources is the McDonald Family Resource and Discovery Center , which is named after the boys' grandfather, Senator Roy McDonald.
"I truly believe that he's really taken on a real leadership role," said Valerie Muratori, the Executive Director of Saratoga Bridges. "And that intimate knowledge of having a family member with autism, certainly strengthens that ability to speak to the issue."
"I never really understood the concept 'special people, special love' until you have a special person in your household," McDonald said. "I think that goes without saying, it changed my life and my family's life and I think it made me and my family better people."
McDonald chairs the Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, a position influenced by his own experiences with Jacob and David.
"Being a grandfather to two grandchildren like this makes it a special thing for me because I can relate to some of their family members and what they go through," he said. "And I understand the importance of mental health issues in American society and New York state society."
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 20 percent of children, at some point in their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.