An Open Letter to the Autism Community
May 17, 2013
By Scott Badesch Autism Society President and CEO
Friends, Supporters, and Colleagues,
As we expected, we are hearing from various individuals regarding our choice of speakers at our 44th Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA from July 10-13, 2013.
This year, we chose to have three general sessions reflect the realities of what is impacting autism throughout our nation. On July 10th, in addition to Pennsylvania Governor Corbett, we will be hearing from Dr. Tom Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Council (IAAC). Dr. Insel will present information on how the National Institute of Health responds to the needs of families and individuals impacted by autism. On July 11th, we will hear from a very impressive panel talking about how the media portrays autism and the issues impacting autism. And, closing our conference on Saturday will be Congressman Chris Smith (NJ) and Congressman Mike Doyle (PA),bi partisan co-chairs of the Congressional Autism Caucus.
I mention all this because in planning our conference, we wanted to provide attendees with different perspectives from various individuals with differing views on how they are addressing autism. It’s our goal for attendees to examine ways we can work together to move forward supporting those living with autism. If we are honest with each other, our progress as an Autism Movement has not been as effective as it should be.
There are 50 state governors. In Washington DC, we have 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. It’s safe to assume they all have differing perspectives on addressing autism. Some want greater funding for research, while others want it cut. Some want money to only go to services. Some desire to change the way we address services. Others show a steadfast commitment to approaches established many years ago. While I would like to live in a world where everyone agrees with my approach, that will never be my reality. I have to accept differences and figure out ways to seek a compromise for the betterment of all.
I have found that in my 36 years of professional service in the advocacy world, that the best way to drive progress is to work out a reasonable solution that is best for all. In my two years as President of the Autism Society, I can also tell you far too often, those of us in the autism field engage in meaningful advocacy, but our voices aren’t heard. We get told there is no money, then we learn that money is budgeted for things far less important than support to individuals and families. We work on policy changes that make sense to everyone, but they don’t occur. To make meaningful progress, we have to change our approach to be truly successful supporting individuals and families.
Far too often the autism community attacks each other before we seek a common compromise of understanding and appreciation. I have an adult child with autism. I have lived in states where there is a positive response from state government and in states where this is almost no response. I have learned as a parent, and my son has now learned as an advocate, the betterment of people comes about when we sit down and listen to others and work collectively for the benefit of all.
When we have a speaker who some may agree with and others may not, rather than find fault with the Autism Society, I ask that you be more inclusive and agreeable. Disagreement is okay. But when that’s the case, sit with others and work to achieve the best results. In our current political landscape and difficult budgetary times, it’s imperative that we work together so that others may gain an appreciation for the work of the Autism Society. It’s the goal of the Autism Society to assist in developing state and federal policies to help more people living with autism. Working together instead of in opposition is our most probable pathway to success to improve the lives of those living with autism.
Autism Society President and CEO
April 10, 2013
The Autism Society, the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots autism organization, has chosen Pittsburgh as the host city of its 44th annual conference on autism spectrum disorders.
April 5, 2013
Individuals with autism can attend the Autism Society National Conference and Exposition (in Pittsburgh) for FREE this year! Learn more: www.autism-society.org/conference.
April 3, 2013
Monarch Teaching Technologies, the makers of VizZle®, web-based educational software for visual learners with autism, will give one-year of free VizZle to every new (or renewing) Champion Member during April.
April 2, 2013
Read the Autism Society’s digital magazine about autism spectrum disorders!
April 2, 2013
Today, throughout the world, individuals will come together highlighting the needs and dreams of people living with autism.