Since Election Day, I have often been asked what the role of the Autism Society of America and myself, in particular, is, to assure that the needs of all impacted by autism are addressed effectively by President-elect Trump. I have been the President/CEO of the Autism Society of America since 2011, and have truly enjoyed the working relationship both our organization and I have had with President Obama and his incredible staff. While we might not have always agreed, I always knew that each person I worked with in the Obama administration wanted a life of opportunity and good fortune for every person with a disability. I wish each person who will soon be leaving in January, nothing but good fortune and happiness and thank each for their service to our nation. To President Obama, thank you for your leadership, vision and commitment to caring for all in our nation.
I know that while much has been advanced in the past to help all of those impacted by autism, much still needs to be done. Waiting lists for services has grown each year. Unemployment rates are disgustingly high and haven’t really changed for adults with autism. Poverty rates among adults with autism are very high. Most parents still do not believe their child is getting the support they need from early childhood through to transition. Many adults with autism are unable to seek out housing options that enhance their independence and self-sufficiency. Far too many older parents still wonder who will be there to help their adult son or daughter when they no longer there to help. Self-advocates still seek and need a voice at every table of discussion, but many are still denied. We still work under government systems and rules that were established years ago and most have little relationship to effective support and help.
That’s why my work with the Autism Society of America continues with a soon to be new President’s administration to advance our advocacy efforts to assure each person with an autism diagnosis always be provided a life full of opportunity, to help maximize their quality of life in a society where they are each respected, valued and assured of the highest dignity. I look forward to developing strong and productive relationships with those in the Trump administration who will be involved in the President’s work with the disability community. I am a person who always believes that more is done by working together and reaching effective solutions. I am also a person who will not give up on that quest. A new administration can bring about concerns to all of us, and I look at favoring opportunities. I first examine what we want for each person, and I believe that is each person having the highest quality of life possible. I then look at how you define the roles of government, non-profits, other institutions, families, individuals, and leaders to ensure they can work together to help each person achieve that high quality of life. This means we will have a give and take, but it also requires us to be accountable to each other that we are all in this together.
Soon, I will have the opportunity to meet with President-elect Trump’s transition staff and begin my organization’s advocacy effort. I view that meeting as a start of a needed dialogue on how we can move forward in a new reality of change. I remain confident that by working together this will be possible. And while I know we will have our disagreements just has we have had with each administration, the Autism Society of America will never give up on our key role of being your voice of reason and advocacy for yourself, your child, loved ones or friends.