Browse the latest People Inc. and affiliate news, updates and press releases.
Weather-related or other closing updates for programs/services are available. Learn more
When Robert Kneitinger was a child, he was teased and bullied. Classmates made fun of his social awkwardness and communications challenges. Eventually, Kneitinger was diagnosed with a developmental disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now, at age 58, Kneitinger has turned the pain of his childhood into lessons for children with disabilities, in the hopes that their lives will be easier.
With some help from staff at People Inc., Kneitinger is now an author and illustrator of 15 children’s books – all with positive messages and an underlying theme of overcoming obstacles and the value of all people, no matter their abilities. Kneitinger said his hope is to inspire families like his.
“My mission is to help children get their independence, like I did,” he said. “What I want is that someday, parents of children who read my books say to me, ‘Thank you for helping my child!’”
The books are fictional, but many of them come from stories about Robert’s own experiences and include ways he navigated the world despite his disability. This includes his latest book soon to go on sale on Amazon, “My Journey with People Inc.,” about ways that connecting with the People Inc. staff who offer services such as a broker, a life coach and a self-directed assistant have changed his life forever, including helping him to find and nurture his writing and artistic talents.
Kneitinger started as an artist after attending classes at Starlight Studios in Buffalo. Working with People Inc. Self-Directed Assistant Don Jackson, he found that he had the ability to create artwork that people admired, and to come up with stories that he hopes will make a difference in people’s lives. After just finishing his 17th book, Don said the benefits he has seen for Robert in this work go well beyond the creative.
Running the business of trying to sell books and do readings and presentations at schools, community organizations and more have pushed Robert far beyond where he and others thought he could go, said Jackson, who has a background in art education and has worked side-by-side with Kneitinger through all of his book writing and illustrating.
“He has come so far,” Jackson said. “All of this stretches his cognitive abilities. We have seen so much improvement socially, emotionally and in his self-confidence. He is now constantly interacting with people – it’s been an incredibly well-rounded experience.”
Kneitinger will be selling his books at the upcoming Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day on August 1 at the Niagara Falls Convention Center.