Every Christmas season when I was little, my grandmother would make a huge batch of cookies and mail off a box to each of the grandkids. We would rip open the containers and look at all the pretty little cookies that were layered through it. She used the same basic dough to make each cookie, but they were all decorated differently and came in a variety of shapes, sizes, flavors and colors.
When I am talking to Autism Speaks volunteers throughout the country who are working tirelessly on autism insurance reform legislation, I often think about my grandmother’s cookies when I refer to our grassroots advocacy approach as our sugar cookie recipe. This is because, whether we are advocating for autism insurance reform legislation in the Kentucky State Senate, the New York State Assembly, or the United States House of Representatives, the “recipe” to move from an idea, to a bill, to an enacted law remains the same.
Like my grandmother’s cookies, the Autism Speaks Government Relations Team, in partnership with our Chapter Advocacy Chairs (CACs), families, and a network of other “on the ground” individuals and advocacy organizations begins with a basic recipe for success that we then decorate differently and bake into a variety of shapes, sizes, flavors, and colors. Like the cookies, no two autism insurance reform bills look exactly alike. The basic recipe is the same, but certain ingredients are tweaked, added, or removed according to the specific circumstances in the state.
Grandma’s Cookie Recipe for Advocacy Success:
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour – This is our grassroots. We need twice as many as you would need to give it all of their purpose to make these bills become laws.
- 1 stick of butter – This is our internal direction or lobbyists. We need the real thing, not an oily substitute, to help us grease the skids.
- 1 cup of sugar – This is our policy. It sweetens our cookies and keeps us coming back for more as that policy reforms the lives of children with autism across the United States.
- a pinch of salt – This is our champion or the political leadership of a state, those who are worth their salt and have the fortitude to stand up for our children.
- 2 eggs – This is our unity and focus with the autism community. It is a binding ingredient that pulls all of the other ingredients together into delicious dough.
Directions – Stay tuned!
For nearly three years, Autism Speaks has focused its state legislative agenda on autism insurance reform. To date twenty-three states have passed legislation that will bring insurance reform to thousands of families coping with the financial struggles of autism. Over the past few months, we have published several blog posts written by our CACs and chronicling the journey in their state from idea, to bill, to enacted law. Our CACs, with their strong leadership skills, their ability to build bridges with others in their communities, their political savvy and policy knowhow are a key ingredient in our cookie recipe for success. They are our flour. Over the next few weeks, we would like to show you some great examples of the other ingredients in our recipe for advocacy success and directions for how these ingredients combine to successfully enact a state autism insurance reform law. A grassroots baking lesson of sorts.
At Autism Speaks, our goal is straightforward. We want to achieve as many benefits for insurance coverage for as many individuals with autism as possible for as long as possible while working within the parameters of existing law and the political environment of each individual state. There are still 27 states that have yet to enact autism insurance reform legislation. Additionally, reform is necessary at the federal level to ensure that all individuals with autism across the country, from infant to adult, have appropriate health insurance coverage for medically necessary, evidence-based autism treatments, therapies, and care. What ingredients are still missing? How do we add them into the batter so that everyone can eat?
To learn more about Autism Votes, take action today on autism insurance reform legislation in your state, or find out about Autism Speaks’ federal legislative advocacy agenda, please visit www.autismvotes.org