This post is by Sharon Boyd, the Advocacy Relations Coordinator for Autism Speaks.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead
I read Margaret Mead’s words for the first time shortly after my son, Austin, was diagnosed with autism. At the time I didn’t realize just how much her words would become a part of my future.
Like many children with autism, Austin was denied insurance coverage for his autism treatments. No matter how hard I tried, without private insurance coverage, I could not get my son the treatments his physicians prescribed. I finally quit my job as an RN to lower my income, so that we could qualify for Medicaid and provide him with access to speech therapy. It was obvious to anyone that big policy changes were needed if our kids with autism were going to get the care they needed.
The more I networked with other families throughout my state, the more I realized there must be strength in numbers. We needed to unite our voices. We needed to become that “small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” that Margaret Mead spoke about in order to get our legislators to listen and “change the world” for our children with autism.
When the autism community uses one voice, our legislators listen. They hear us loud and clear, with one booming voice and they too become committed to the policy changes our families so desperately need. This is what happened in my state of Florida when we finally passed our autism insurance reform bill in 2008. It is what has happened in 22 other states across the country that has passed meaningful autism insurance reform laws. And it is what happened when the autism community came together to pass the Combating Autism Act in 2006. Strength in numbers.
Autism Speaks holds walks across the country that raise funds for autism research. But these walks serve another purpose as well. Every walk has an advocacy booth that is part of the Autism Votes initiative. This fall the volunteers at the Autism Votes booth at every walk will be there to provide you with information on the important pieces of pending autism-related federal legislation, such as the ABLE Act, which seeks to allow families of a child with a disability to save money, tax-free, for future needs as an adult. Most importantly, at the Autism Votes booths this Fall, you will have the chance to sign a petition in support of the ABLE Act, and/or other autism-related federal and state legislation. Your signature on this petition will join with the hundreds of others collected at your walk and, acting as a united message from a united voice, will go directly to the legislators who can bring about the changes our families need.
So, be sure to stop by the Autism Votes booth when you attend an Autism Speaks walk this fall. You can’t miss it…it’s the only booth with red, white and blue streamers, balloons and other patriotic decorations! Or find one of the Autism Votes volunteers with a clipboard that will likely be walking through the crowd asking for signatures.
Signing a petition at the Autism Votes booth will take you just one minute. Just one minute of your time to become part of a united voice in the autism community. A simple minute to become that committed citizen and change the world for your child or a child you know with autism.