Posts Tagged ‘autism insurance reform legislation’

Tune in to NBC Nightly News, Saturday, January 1

December 30, 2010 3 comments

NBC Nightly News will air an interview Saturday with Peter Bell, Autism Speaks’ executive vice president for programs and services, as part of a segment on new laws that are going into effect on January 1, 2011. Bell will address autism insurance legislation that will become effective in eight states: Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada and New Hampshire. These vital new laws, which affect state-regulated plans, will require health insurance policies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. To date, 23 states have passed autism insurance legislation. Autism Speaks is actively working to introduce new bills in an additional 15 states during the upcoming 2011 legislative sessions.

For more information on federal and state autism initiatives and to contact your legislators about much needed autism insurance reform, visit

Check your local listings for NBC Nightly News.

The Incredible Edible Egg

August 17, 2010 5 comments

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


Grandma’s Recipe for Advocacy Success

July 23, 2010 3 comments

Autism Speaks' staffer, Jennifer Smith, with a puzzle piece cookie

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:

Ingredients –

  • 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



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