From Raymond

Advocating is a little like conducting a symphony. You have it all scripted in your head, but getting everyone to play the right thing at the right time is tough.

We didn’t have that problem today. We nailed it.

First off, our advocacy team consisted of a director of special ed, the head of an Autism Society chapter, a member of the military whose son is affected, an adult with autism and me. Diverse and knowledgeable, which is formidable on the hill. We couldn’t get meetings with our senators, so we spoke to their assistants instead. Naturally the hill was buzzing. There was the bipartisan health care meeting and the Toyota folks running about. In addition there was the usual crush of lobbyists and advocates, salesemen and citizens.

Our initial meeting was with Senator Webb’s assistant, who was somewhat cold until our military expert chimed in. Then she warmed up to the subject a little, and our adult with autism told her story. She started with her diagnosis at a young age and then recounted the steps to get to her current life, living on her own with a job and a car. She is a real inspiration to me, and I could see that powerful message of hope resonated with the delegate. The head of special ed said her piece, and the fearless leader of an autism org took it home. He also volunteered to do research for the legislative assistant, and get testimonials or any other info into her hands if the Senator needed it. It worked pretty well, but his aide said that Senator Webb is very careful about bills he cosponsors, so they would really need to think about it before committing. We gave her our info packet and headed out.

This turned out to be a pretty good format for us, so we decided to use it for the next meeting. Senator Warner’s assistant was positively vivacious. She was knowledgeable and really gave some consideration to the subject. She liked the acts, and really appreciated the fact that the ABLE act and the Restraints And Seclusions Act were fairly revenue neutral. We feel like we really made an impact, and our follow up with her will hopefully yield some positive results.

Lunch break, then I was on my own. I bid my companions farewell and went to visit Congressman Wittman. I like Rob Wittman, as he is from the northern neck and a local guy. He really warmed to our story, and asked to keep Raymond’s picture. Naturally I let him! I also volunteered my assistance in answering questions on the disorder, resources or anything they needed. I felt really good about this one, and I think they really listened and understood our issues and how these bills will help our kids, adults, families and communities. He also mentioned a young man that attended his alma mater, Benedictine, who was riding a bicycle cross country to raise awareness for autism! His name is Ronald Barnes Jr. and you can visit the Autism Society’s site for him. The synchronicity is that he was in the office just moments before I walked in! I’m taking that as a good sign.

I visited one other office and dropped of an information packet. Then I was done for the day, but I’m following up. I want them to know me, and know our kids. I want our representatives to know we are watching, and we care what they do. I will put out the word next time I come up here, because I want more people to come with me. This helps restore your faith in the process, but we need people to make it work. Keep up with the legislation at the Autism Society’s Legislation Page.

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