We now have President-Elect Barack Obama, and the two years of campaigning, all the incessant political ads, tens of millions of votes, the raw emotions of this day, and – regardless of how you feel about the outcome – the history we have now witnessed have quickly turned into just preamble. That’s about how long historic moments last in a country where things are a mess. Shortly, our TVs will return to idiotic erectile dysfunction commercials (which frighteningly I was starting to miss…) and we’ll get back to that sinking feeling of our economy being in the toilet (if we haven’t already) and all the problems the world faces.
He will hear from untold numbers of people representing countless causes. And with respect to autism and parenting and all the issues we face, we better get our crap together and commit ourselves to making sure our children are well-served as part of all of the changes to come. We know the challenges we and our children face everyday. It’s time to get to doing something about it.
For most of my 20s, I was pretty committed to the whole idea of single-handedly changing the world by eliminating poverty, disease, and war, and discovering cold fusion and the perfect cup of coffee during my lunch hour. I was somewhere between an overachiever and a mentally ill person with a savior complex, but at least my heart was in the right place. I crusaded for causes and put myself into voluntary poverty to give much of that period of my life to efforts I believed in. I dreamed really big; I was the poster child for people who wear their hearts on their sleeves.
The details of my life have changed dramatically since then, but though it may now burn with a different color and brightness than in those days, that fire is now like a focused laser. And God help anyone who stands in the way of our work on behalf of the three-year-old bundle of sunshine that fills our lives up to bursting everyday.
In his campaign, President-Elect Obama made many promises on education (see also this fact sheet), child advocacy, health care, and disabilities, and particularly in his “Statement on Autism Spectrum Disorders” (I also put these in a previous post on Obama and McCain here) that potentially could significantly help our autistic children. Of course, the world is filled with coulds and mights and maybes, and the flip-side of that is obvious.
While the issues he must address are legion, and while autism may not rank up there with people losing their jobs or the effort to stop those who are trying to kill innocent people, I have no intention of sitting around and waiting for these other things to be fixed before I start doing my part to bring the neglected issues related to autism, special education, and health care into the realms where things get done. I believe that in America we can walk and chew gum at the same time and also kick a little butt while we’re at it just because we can.
I see our mission as one to make sure the Obama Administration understands one simple statement, “You made grand promises to us about our children and their future – some we agree with and others we may not – but we intend to hold you to the ideal of making sure our children can grow into their fullest potential.”
The stakes for both us as parents and our children especially are too high. They deserve to have the opportunity to do their part to make America and our world a better place. As Americans are being called to shared sacrifice and shared commitment to make our nation better, we cannot share in this together unless all of us are able to do our part. Autistic children and adults have a God-given right to learn and grow and find ways to work toward the betterment of our world. In order to do that, not just special needs children but all children must be given every opportunity to thrive. News flash to the rest of the world – autistic children, young people, and adults can dive right in there with the rest of y’all.
Boards and advisory panels and groups who petition legislative bodies as advocates for autistic persons must not be comprised solely of non-autistic people. This has been a huge failing of many organizations whose mission is to improve life for autistic persons from all walks of life. Whether ‘disabled’ or not, we all have something to contribute, and it shouldn’t be some shock to us that the best people to tell us how to move forward with this are, you know, autistic people.
I have no idea how to do this or even where to start, but that’s never stopped me before. It’s time for a new way of thinking, and it’s time for us to chart that course, wherever it takes us. My concern since J-Man was diagnosed many months ago is that the world seems far more interested in all the autism controversies to the point of outright neglect of investing the necessary time and energy and resources into improving the education and health care systems that we desperately need. People are taking out multiple mortgages to pay for therapies for their kids, and there are plenty of days where I feel like more research goes into improving the taste of rice pasta than it does into the broken systems we desperately need to work.
I can feel the warning signs of an even-more-out-of-control rant coming on, so I’ll stop here. I still have an information hangover from last night anyway. Well, except I’ll say again that I think we need a new approach to how we think about and approach autism in this country. However you feel about the results of the election, the country is about to reboot itself, and there’s no better time than that to become the change we want to see in the world.