Thursday, May 6, 2010

Laying Down the Law

Sometimes I get fired up and a dash off upset letters to the president. Usually it's about education. Oddly, I have never written to him about autism. I thought about that today, and it turned into me dashing off this post. (I wish I had the time to research a more in-depth, journalistic piece. My To Do List cracks up at that mere thought.) Maybe you will consider writing a similar post, and link to it in the comments:

If I could talk to President Obama, Congress, or other influential leaders, what would I tell them about autism?

- Autism is not just one thing. It's not easy to define. To know one child with autism is to know one child with autism. You could have 20 autistic people in a room and they could have very little in common. Some would look you in the eye, some would carry on a conversation with you, some would hug you, some would have special talents, some would have very high IQs, some would spin or flap, some would have more than one diagnosis, and some would not -- but every single person in the room would have value, importance, significance and worth.
- Even the undisputed stats tell us autism in an increasing concern. It is time to make this a priority of our surgeon general and our Secretary of Health and Human Services. I see the military getting behind the cause of fighting obesity because they see the national importance. Well, obesity is a real concern. But it has taken us far too long to realize how important. Let's not be so slow to help families who deal with autism - who deal with inadequate resources, discrimination, health challenges, and economic struggles.
- Like obesity, autism becomes more expensive when ignored. It is not just right and ethical to provide support to children with autism, early intervention is actually quite cost effective. We need to act to ensure equal access to early intervention regardless of geography, ethnicity, class, or anything else.
- The education system, in vast need of reform, must differentiate for the diverse needs of all learners, but particularly kids on the autism spectrum. This requires differentiated instruction, adequate resources, and better trained educators. Public officials need to think about how we can make this happen, and how they can influence teacher preparation institutions to take on these challenges as well.
- Parents with kids on the spectrum face struggles financially and in maintaining their careers. Their circumstances vary as widely as the kinds of autism that exist. Some parents of kids with autism are blue collar and some are white collar, some are famous and some are very private, some are married while others are divorced, some are CEOs, some are teachers... Tax breaks could benefit many, and job flexibility could benefit many, but the important thing for our leadership to grasp is that by helping families cope with challenges brought by autism, those families have more to offer the country as well. Everyone benefits.
- Families with autism are vulnerable. Because autism has so many unknowns, there are those who would exploit parents to make a quick buck. How can Congress encourage innovation and supports for families but also act swiftly to put a stop to those whose snake oil would do financial or physical harm?o
- INCLUSION, INCLUSION, INCLUSION. There is no where, no reason, and no benefit in hiding away the ever growing population of children and adults with autism. Segregation benefits no one, and inclusion benefits everyone. We need to support the inclusion of kids on the spectrum in schools, clubs, teams, and we need to extend support beyond school age years. The children diagnosed every 20 minutes today are the adults, the VOTERS, of tomorrow. Some might still need supports into adulthood, but the more we help early, the better off they will be.
- Promote volunteerism. People who spend time helping those who have autism will learn, dispel myths and ignorance, build community, make a difference, and reap their own rewards. People with autism have a lot to give, too.

1 comment:

Pauline said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you on all but one point. In your profile, you say your husband is a "real" writer. I say you're as "real" a writer as he is.