This profile was prepared when Michal Wroniszewski was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
Michal Wroniszewski is a senior member of the Polish health care establishment, and he is building a public movement to accept and care for children who are differentand their familiesby changing public attitudes. His vision incorporates the insight that when public opinion shifts, public policy and national budgets are likely to follow, and that it costs less to bring the special individual into the society than to pay for maintaining him or her as a dependent "outsider." He focuses on the needs of autistic and mentally retarded children, though his project is readily adaptable to any group that needs care. As a part of his commitment to changing the public mind, Michal is showing that autistic and mentally retarded kids, as well as others with disabilities, have far more capacity to develop than is generally believed, depending on the quality of love and patience they receive; and that the families of such children merit special appreciation and support from their communities. He is convinced that, especially in a developing democracy like Poland, it is essential to understand people who are different. After many years of professional and personal experience, he knows that understanding the uncommon world of "special children" and their families is not only a professional challenge but also an exciting opportunity: such a vision challenges all exclusive social systems at their root.