Advocacy counts

This April is National Autism Awareness Month. I hope that it will be a time when business and community leaders, politicians, and all of us become more keenly aware of the impact of autism on so many individuals and families across America. It’s a time when we can raise our voices to bring attention to this important issue that affects so many.

That’s why I want to comment about advocacy. Famous philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote: “one person with a belief is equal to the force of ninety nine who only have an interest.” I like Mill’s statement because it rings so true – especially today. People who are passionate about an issue and who are willing to share their passion with others can truly make a difference. Ask elected officials. They will tell you that real stories from real people who live in their districts or states get their attention.

Being an advocate is not something reserved to lobbyists or paid professionals. In fact, I would argue that a person with autism like Maurice Snell, Easter Seals’ 2007 representative, is as powerful as any voice. Maurice had the benefit of Easter Seals’ services as he was growing up, and he’s now successfully employed and living independently. His message is compelling – watch his online movie and you’ll see what I mean.

So my challenge to each of us is to practice passionate advocacy. Tell people about the challenges families face and about the issues affecting children and adults with autism. Let elected officials know that services produce results, that funding has to be a priority, and that there is hope if these things are available. Let the media know this, too.

Working together as advocates, we can make a difference for families today and for years to come.


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  1. John Cocciolone Says:

    Hello everyone! I wish I could say that the challenges that Sherri and Pam stated above were not common, but they are. The issues they eloquently stated have been a problem in the systems for many years. But there is hope.

    I’m the President of Easter Seals in Michigan and our affiliate has been growing our services for Autism Spectrum Disorders for a few years now. We are not yet as developed as we want to be, but we are growing drastically and our highest program growth area is in the area of Autism.

    I have a brother who has a quadraplegia and a sister who had a severe head injury. Both are doing great but both had to fight hard to get the services they deserve and needed to help them live their full lives.

    Easter Seals is the place you can find support and friends. Parents, family and advocates all have to work together sometimes to challenge the system (including Easter Seals sometimes). Professionals don’t have all the answers. We have to be our own best advocate.

    Hang in there and seek the help you need and deserve. the dividends will be huge.

    Great video of my buddy Maurice !!!

    Also, Alan, Congratulations and make sure you say hello to Connie (the President of Easter Seals in NC). Tell him his buddy from Detroit says hi.

    Happy Easter and Passover everyone…


  2. Alan Katzer Says:

    Dear Easter Seals, I was diagnosed with autism since I left Georgia and move to North Carolina in 1998. I have a part-time job and living independently in a 1 bedroom apartment. The best part is I am still involved with Easter Seals and was the 2006 Walk With Me Adult Ambassador. Hope to see you at the 2007 in Greensboro on Saturday, September 27. Happy Easter!

  3. Pamela Azar Says:

    Hi Sherri, My son will be 10 in May. My son was officially diagnosed last year but we managed his Asperger ok until last year. Even though he was red flagged by the state for early intervention he was passed along because he can pass tests. I have gone broke getting evaluations and legal advise. It is horrible. What makes it worse is that the head of Student Servies is the Head of Human resources and was appointed to become Superintendent effective June. I teach in this same school system and am the sole support for my son. I am now effectivly I guess you say fighting with my boss. i am scared that there will be retaliation. thank God I am a good teacher…it is making me sick. My son, my only child is worth losing my job over. I just want him to have a chance at a good life and be able to support himself as a functioning and productive adult. He has strenghts and of course his weaknesses can be helped. Thank you Easter Seals for helping us get the word out. Pamela

  4. Sherri Dewey Says:

    Hi, I am new to autism. My now 10 year old boy was 9 when he was diagnosed. We have been having trouble with him in school for several years and he was diagnosed with being Oppositionally Defiant and Schizophrenic, and he was placed on medication to help. It has been like living in a nightmare. It’s been hardest on him becuase he has been severely disciplined for his behavior, which we are now learning is his disability.

    If it was not for advocates aking their time, and their knowledge in helping me get through the MASSIVE amounts of bureaucracy, I would not be so fortunate to at least be starting with a plan. It has taken a year to just to get him tested, diagnosed, and to get his classification changed with the school, now we are taking the task of getting his educational treatment changed, which is proving to be hard on me because of my perceptions and feelings. The feelings and frustrations are overwhelming on some days. My child is very high functioning, so I have little to feel sorry for myself about when I see other children and adults who are dealing with more issues than us.

    I am new to Easter Seals. This is my first time getting to know about the organization. It gives me hope that I haven’t had.

    Thank you from Arizona!!!!

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