Home > Adults with autism, Family Services, Government Relations > The Day Joey Testified Before Congress

The Day Joey Testified Before Congress

This is a guest post by Sharon Rosenbloom. Sharon is a speech and language Pathologist, autism consultant, and author of the award winning book: Souls: Beneath and Beyond Autism. She is the mother of Joey Rosenbloom, a 22 year old with autism. Sharon and Joey, along with their family members Raia and Bob, are passionate advocates for individuals living with autism – especially those with limited access to communication.

On July 15, my son Joey climbed the steps of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. Watching him, it struck me that for a person with autism; this was not so much “The Hill” as yet another mountain to be climbed. To the casual observer, those steps looked deceptively easy.  But for Joey, a 22-year-old man with autism, the journey that brought him to Washington, D.C. with the honor of testifying as part of the Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism Congressional Briefing had been a long and arduous one. This was never more evident than as he ascended those steps. Only those of us who live in the world of autism can imagine the amount of effort it took for Joey to simply wear a suit, let alone develop the skills to access a voice, manage crippling anxiety and transcend the abyss from autism to the steps of this historical government building.

As both Joey’s anchor and rudder, I begged my eyes to stay dry and my heart to stop racing, in order to be the calm presence he needed as he viewed this audience of influence seated before him in The Kennedy Caucus Room. On every level of our senses, each of us at that table knew the importance of this unprecedented event: here sat the faces of adults with autism, each one representing a story of relentless effort and unwavering hope. Finally, beyond the statistics and symptoms, those given the label of autism were truly going to speak. I knew all too well that each panelist with autism had spent their entire life being judged for what the textbooks called “idiosyncratic” behaviors. Yet on this day, these remarkable individuals were being given an opportunity to represent the truth about what adults living with autism have the potential to be, and how the ceaseless love and energy poured onto them yielded extraordinary returns on that investment. As Joey fidgeted with the microphone, I was filled with profound respect for him that dropped a blanket of calm over the sharp edges of my apprehension. Overwhelmed by emotion, I took Joey’s hand, and he let me hold it. I found myself replacing that familiar anticipation of stinging public scrutiny with a prayer that those watching might see each panelist with the eyes of their hearts, listen with their minds wide open and ready themselves for paradigms to shift.

As the last thought was shared and the audience rose to their feet, filling the room with applause, I caught a glimpse of something I had never seen: pride, spreading like a smile across my son’s face. It was then I knew I had witnessed a milestone event which had lit a small candle of hope for Joey, and for all those labeled with autism: that by the miracle of human connection they might now be viewed, if for only those brief moments, through a truer lens.

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  1. Mark
    July 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Very well put. Way to go Joey!!

  2. Helen Murray
    July 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Dear Sharon,
    I am still talking about Joey almost a week after having met him in D.C. He is an amazing young man and you and your husband are equally remarkable! Your mutual devotion to one another (all three of you) is palpable and so heart warming. I shall never forget Joey’s words; either those conveyed through the Light Writer or your mouth. What a wonderful mind and heart your son has and I wish all of you much love, light and joy.
    It was a pleasure meeting you and please give Joey a fist bump from me :)
    XOX
    Helen

  3. anna harshman
    July 19, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Way to go Joey!!! As a granny to two boys with sever autism,I know difficult this was for you to do!!!!!!!!

  4. Debra
    July 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Sharon, beautifully written. Thank you for sharing Joey with us.

  5. July 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    You should both be very proud.

  6. Sandra Kaye
    July 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    very good!! & thank you! because of the things you are doing today, my Logan may have a better tomorrow!

  7. July 19, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Wow…that is quite an inspirational story. I have seen many people with autism (including my own brother, Scott) struggle to communicate well in the presence of other people. Given those limitations that he has, it is quite remarkable that Joey was able to speak before Congress like that.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Marc
    July 19, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    What a great story. Cogratulations Joey on a very good representation of Autism.You can hold your head high because you did a great job.

  9. Eugene
    July 19, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Bravo!

  10. Sonia Dickson
    July 20, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Sharon,
    Your words allowed me to feel like I was in the room feeling what you felt! Joey is the product of hard work, sheer tenacity, hope and belief that he could with effective supports work to his full potential.
    He is a truly remarkable young man for whatever effort we put in, he has surpassed us all in his willingness to put more in!
    Love you all-
    wish i could have been there-

  11. Hilda Sanchez Figueras
    July 20, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Hoooraay

  12. Will
    July 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    WELL DONE YOUNG MAN! Strong work Joey! You’re the man!

  13. Eileen and Maddie Lesniak
    July 20, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Congratulations Joey!We are very proud of you and we are sure you have touched the hearts of many. Keep up the great work, cant wait to see you!
    Hugs and Kisses- Eileen and Maddie Lesniak <3

  14. jasmine
    July 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    truely beautiful sharon.. if anyone could have made it happen, it would be you and joey!! i am not at all surprised but completely proud!

  15. July 20, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Dear Joey, Sharon, Bob, and Raia…
    What a proud moment for Joey and his beautiful family. What a beautiful write-up! I know what it took for you to reach this day! I honor the privilege of knowing you and sharing some close times with you all. My love and blessings for your continued successes in your next steps in life and all the good that you are doing for the world. Please keep in touch. In loving Qi, Dr Effie Chow.

  16. gail thompson
    July 21, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Thank you for sharing your son’s experience and also for the work you do. Thank you for working with my great-nephew Nathan. Continued success for your family and others coping with autism. With graditude, Gail Thompson

  17. Nancy Ronto
    July 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Joey has accomplished more in 22 years than most of us will ever accomplish in a lifetime. What a huge moment for your family, for Joey and for all of us who care about humanity.

  18. Marlene Zens
    July 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    How inspiring for all families and individuals that deal with autism on a daily basis. Joey, you were indeed courageous to speak in front of all those people!! I am overjoyed that my grandson, Nathan, is working with you on a weekly basis. Thank you for giving him a voice to express his thoughts and knowledge.

  19. Max Cabin
    July 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Dear Joe,
    I want to truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the inspiration that guides me and gets me from the core of who I am. I see the meaning of me through you. I am so proud to be your friend. Hold on for all of us, for you are truly a special, dear, great mench.

    Max

  20. Joe Raia
    July 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this with me Sharon! Joey, you are a true inspiration not only to us, your family, but to all who have had the privelage of meeting you. God Bless you and we will see you soon!

  21. Allen
    July 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Sharon, you know how I feel, but I just wanted to say thank you for sharing. You and Bob, Joey & Raia are absolutely the most wonderful people. I miss you guys and am so happy for Joey and his accomplishments. I think of you all the time and only wish we could get together more often. I will be in Chicago in September and hope to see you then. Keep me posted. Love to all, Allen

  22. Kathy Lurito
    July 22, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Congratulations, Joey, for having the courage to put a greater cause above your own fears. Not too many people can, or will, do that.
    Sharon, your writing is flawless.

  23. Victoria
    July 22, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Joey, You are a Rock Star !!!!!!!!! Congress… How many people can say that….

  24. Chris O'Connell Loveless
    July 23, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Sharon, Bob, Raia and especially Joey,
    Congratulations on this great accomplishment! Everyone who has the pleasure to know you is so proud of all of you. The love, courage, and relentless effort you exhibit in your everyday life is an inspiration, not only to those in the “autism world”, but to all of us. Thank you for sharing your story!

  25. Susan Puetz
    July 24, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Congratulations, Joey, you ROCK!! You have accomplished something that not many of us will ever be able to do. Thank you for all that you teach us. We have a lot to learn from you. God sure did know what parents to bless, when you came into this world. Keep up the great work. We are blessed to have you in our lives.

  26. Jessica Hoffmann
    July 25, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Congratulations Joey, Sharon, Bob & Raia! You are an amazing family and truly inspirational. It is an honor to know you. What an incredible experience for Joey and the whole family.

  27. Grace Marie Baldacci
    August 18, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Bravo, Joey and Sharon!! Bravo!

  28. The O'Keefe's
    October 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Joey you are a very special person that will achieve great things. Keep taking risks and challenging yourself!

  29. June 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    WTG!!!! Joey. I am so proud of Joey. My son is 21 with Autism and I am very proud of him too.

  30. Velma L. Knight
    September 2, 2011 at 11:26 am

    This article was so refreshing to me. My son was diagnoised 2 years ago with autism./aspergers 2 years ago, and he is 24 years old. Just think, all those years through grade school, middle school, and high school, he was never understood. ADHD was the diagnoisis. It has been such a heartfelt and crying experience. As I read this article, as I write to you now, tears flow like a river. Thank-you for sharing.

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