Special Needs Living: What's D.C. Doing About Autism Reform?

Suzanne Murray

hand holding
Flickr photo by J.Elliot

Today's guest blogger is Katie Olson (aurorabunny), mom to 3-year old Brody, who has autism.

Every week, Katie shares the ongoing struggles and triumphs that often come with parenting a child with special needs. Today, she talks about her concerns that enough isn't being done to give families and individuals with autism and other special needs the support and services they require, despite the speed at which autism is growing in the United States.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what exactly is or isn't being done in Washington with regard to autism and making things better for families and individuals living on the autism spectrum. Most of my research has turned up a whole lot of nothing. 

I guess I shouldn't quite say nothing -- my digging has turned up lots of fluffy terms like "spreading awareness" and "communicating with families," which to me basically means: "We've put it right between legalizing inter-species marriage and giving endorsements to Fox News on our list of things to do." I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but how else should one really feel about this?

All of the blame doesn't sit squarely on the shoulders of the Obama administration by any means, but perhaps I just expected more from him. However many million dollars might currently be allotted for "autism research," what's that money going toward exactly? The only "new findings" I ever hear about are the monthly reminders that vaccines have nothing to do with it. Me thinks they protest too much, but that aside, what other kind of revelations have we really heard in the last five years? Throwing money at a problem certainly doesn't make it go away, and I'm beginning to feel that autism has become the elephant in the room on Capitol Hill.

I truly understand that learning more about autism and what causes it is important, but unfortunately, in the meantime, there are millions of children slipping through the cracks.  Some might think this a trivial issue, in lieu of health care, the war in Iraq, and the recession, but 1 IN 70 boys is currently being diagnosed with some form of autism.

I once listened to a father discuss autism on a radio show, and he addressed this issue in a way that I thought was eye-opening and eloquent. He stated that if 1 in 70 children were disappearing off playgrounds across the United States, it'd be considered a national state of emergency. In a different way, that very thing is happening with autism, yet not enough is being done.

For the time being, I'm trying to focus the free time I have into "autism reform" on a local level by letting my city and state representatives know that more needs to be done -- not just for future children who will be diagnosed with autism, but for the children and adults living with autism right now. I can only hope that the President and those who make the laws in Washington will begin to pay some much-needed attention to what has become a national crisis and do something tangible to help those who are struggling to get the help, services, and support that they desperately need.

Do you feel that enough is being done to enforce better support systems and necessary services for children with autism and other special needs?

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