This post is written by Shelley Hendrix, Autism Speaks’ Director of State Advocacy Relations. She currently resides in Baton Rouge, La. with her two children, Liam and Mairin. Liam was diagnosed with autism age the age of two in 1998. She began advocating on behalf of her son and other children with autism almost from day one.
Autism Speaks’ approach to advocacy in both our Federal and State-based legislative initiatives uses a specific formula – our “cookie recipe.” My last blog focused on flour, representing our grassroots effort, as one of the most fundamental ingredients for any cookie recipe. While flour creates a foundation for the cookie, other essential ingredients are required to make the final tasty treat. Each state’s “cookie,” its autism insurance reform initiative, is shaped, flavored and decorated differently but when we follow this tried and true recipe, we celebrate with a big, batch of cookies.
In our recipe, eggs represent the unity and focus in our community. Just one egg has 13 essential nutrients and while the cost of other foods skyrocket in today’s economy, the simple egg remains one of nature’s best bargains with regard to high-quality protein foods. Eggs consist of two basic parts held together by a fragile shell. Outward appearances indicate that the fragile egg is contained and unified. Once you crack that shell, you can see those separate distinct parts – each part of the egg serving a different, but important, purpose for the egg as a whole.
When baking, we know that to move forward and make a great cookie, the egg must be whisked to unify its distinct parts so that it can do what it was meant to do for the cookie overall – serve as a bonding ingredient – unifying the flour, sugar, butter and pinch of salt.
The “egg” in our recipe represents the autism community’s unity and focus on the legislative initiatives we work on to improve our children’s lives. Before we take a crack at these initiatives, we are held together with our fragile shell that unifies us – our children who have autism. As we move through the process of working on these projects, we crack that egg to find different parts inside – parts of our community that all serve essential purposes. Parts which, when working separately, would not have the same effect as when they are whisked together in unison and focused.
Every time our family bakes anything, Liam and Mairin argue over who gets to crack and whisk the eggs. To them it is more fun than measuring out the other ingredients. It is for me, too. Over the last three years, I have enjoyed nothing more than working with a variety of different people in the autism community who hail from different philosophies on how their children developed autism, how autism should be treated not to mention the different socio-economic statuses, educational levels and backgrounds. I love working to whisk them all together and make that “cookie’s” ingredients blend successfully. I have witnessed firsthand what a unified community can accomplish when they refuse to be divided.
Unity for the autism community is a fragile egg indeed. But it is a low-cost, big -bargain, high-protein source that should fuel us, bond us and make us better, and more incredible, than we would ever be without it.
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