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.
When you build anything from skyscrapers to cookies, everyone knows that you have to begin with a solid, strong foundation. Autism Speaks’ approach to advocacy in both our Federal and State-based initiatives use a specific formula, what we call our “cookie recipe” as our foundation for success. We firmly recognize that each state’s “cookie,” its autism insurance reform initiative, will be shaped, flavored and decorated differently. But when the community follows this tried and true recipe, they have a big, batch of cookies at the end for their celebratory party.
One of the most fundamental ingredients in any cookie recipe is flour. Without flour, a sugar cookie recipe is basically just butter, eggs and sugar – it’s the flour that makes it all come together and taste good. All-purpose flour is comprised of both hard and soft wheats to produce a substance with fine texture and high starch. As a result, the baker doesn’t have to stretch it or make it rise much to produce a perfect cookie. Same with our grassroots advocates. They bind all of the efforts of the policy, the lobbyists and the political leaders. They provide the foundation of the movement that affects change in our children’s lives and come from a variety of backgrounds, blended together for one purpose.
Grassroots are a vital ingredient in comparison with all the other ingredients required to make our “cookies.” They are the flour in this recipe. Typically only 10% of the American population participates in any political activism. That means that 90% of us won’t get involved directly with issues that can impact and change our lives.
The autism community has a long laundry list of issues to work on. Can we afford to keep asking 10% of the community to help make our children’s lives better?
In the 25 states which passed legislation, the grassroots have doubled their efforts. They haunt the halls of their state legislature. They dial the phones until their fingers are worn out and their voices are weary. They invite legislators to their homes for BBQs and dessert parties to meet their children. They search for creative ways to develop and maintain a presence at the Capitol so everyone knows who they are the minute they see them coming.
In the end, they build relationships with those who represent them. In a world of instant communication and online social media, that personal connection with representatives is key to passing effective legislation. Our community needs way more than the national average of 10% for participation to improve our efficacy. We should be aiming for double that, two cups of flour power, 20%.
What a difference that would make in moving all of our issues along more quickly!
Flour doesn’t make a cookie alone just like grassroots blowing in the wind without sound policy, direction and focus won’t affect change. Every state needs to double its efforts this fall to prepare for our bake off next spring legislative season … because without that flour power … you just have sweet, scrambled eggs.
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