Home > Government Relations > A Mother’s Thank You to Her Senator

A Mother’s Thank You to Her Senator

This guest post is by Shannon Knall, the Autism Speaks Connecticut Chapter Advocacy Chair and mother of three boys – her oldest has autism.  She worked with state legislators to pass the autism insurance reform bill in 2009.

I first met Senator Chris Dodd at a press conference in Washington DC in 2008.  I have lived in Connecticut for almost my entire life. Senator Dodd is a political icon here and as a result I was certainly intimidated by the mere thought of meeting him. How I wound up standing right next to him with an autism community delegation from Connecticut I have no idea, yet there I was.

Flashbulbs lit up as he entered the room. Without missing a beat, he strode to the podium and greeted Autism Speaks Co-Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright. He then turned to me. With an outstretched hand and a warm smile, he introduced himself.  We had a brief exchange as I explained to him that my son had autism and thanked him for his ongoing service to the disability community.

He looked at me and said, “Moms like you make me want to do everything I can to help. Never stop being the voice for your son.”

I haven’t.

Neither has Senator Dodd.

Without a doubt, his retirement will be a palpable loss for our community.

Before his last term comes to an end in January, he took a final stand for the autism community through the introduction of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2010 (S.4044).  This Act furthers the Senator’s work which he began through the Combating Autism Act (CAA), signed in to law in 2006. The , CAA, among other provisions, created a desperately needed focus on research in to the cause, treatment and cure for autism.  That original law will sunset in September of 2011 unless it is reauthorized by Congress to continue providing funding necessary for research and services and if that happens the momentum that has built up since December 2006 will sunset with it.

Prior to Senator Dodd’s introduction of the CAA, autism was an intermittent blip on the federal legislative radar.  Our community had been in desperate need of a comprehensive plan, one that is broad in scope but specific in delivery to address the spectrum of needs of our loved ones with autism.  The historic unanimous passage of the CAA changed all of that. With passage of CARA comes an  opportunity for autism to remain a continued focus of political attention in addition to matching more aggressive action in response to the autism epidemic.

As your constituent and as an advocate for my son, thank you Senator Dodd for your unwavering compassion for our families in our community not only here in Connecticut but nationwide, and the courage you had, once again, to be our champion.

For more information on the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2010, please visit www.AutismVotes.org/CARA.

  1. kim
    December 21, 2010 at 3:04 pm | #1

    And a big thank you to Senator Menendez of NJ as well! Thank you both! And thanks for posting this wonderful tribute.

  2. Melody
    December 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm | #2

    It’s great to see that you’re still out there fighting Shannon. It seems only yesterday that we were introducing the autism bill in CT. While I may not always agree with their politics, I’m always happy to see the support you are able to garner with politicians both in CT as well as at the nation’s capitol. Keep up the good work.

  3. shannon knall
    December 21, 2010 at 4:13 pm | #3

    AW thank you Melody. It does seem like yesterday doesn’t it. Keep on fighting the fight. Every day. I hope you are well.

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