By Scott Taylor
In the next few weeks, I will be celebrating an anniversary of sorts. It’s not my wedding; it’s not another year on the job. This anniversary is that of a very special change that came about in my life. It happened subtly and yet, I can trace it back to the moment it happened. Early last May, I received an e-mail about a federal autism bill that would require insurance providers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of ASDs nationally. As usual, I was staying up late and had received the message from Autism Votes thanking Congressman Mike Doyle (PA) for introducing it in the House of Representatives.
I was so excited, I had to go tell my wife, who was probably sleeping at the time. Soon, I was writing and calling my Congressman and Senators urging them to support the bill. After one of my many calls, I had the sense that unless many others called and wrote, my call or letter was not going to go very far. You weren’t going to hear about it in the evening news or local newspaper so there was not a lot of public awareness surrounding this bill. In fact, I was stunned that many families in the autism community didn’t know about it.
Out of frustration, I began to search for others that were advocating for autism legislation. I was sure that there must be an organization that I could join to help fight for this reform and others. Sadly, there was very little. So I continued to do what I could not just contacting members of Congress, but posting on my local Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) Chapter’s Yahoo group. Eventually, I began coordinating with Autism Speaks and ASNC and have made some wonderful friends along the way. At first, we focused on the Federal Bill and now, on a State bill that would bring some of the reforms we sought nationally to North Carolina.
In my quest, I have done some things I never dreamt I would do. I have attended public events to talk to Congressmen and sat down with our Senators and their staff to urge them to support the bill. I have spoken to local ASNC chapters and their leadership in order to urge others to contact their Congressperson to press for their support. Call, write and even ask to meet with our legislators to urge them to support families coping with the stresses of Autism.
Our efforts were far from fruitless. Senator Kay Hagan as well as Congressmen Bob Etheridge and David Price have co-sponsored the bill. I know that my efforts were not solely responsible for these successes, but it does not lessen the pride I take in what has been accomplished, knowing that I have played a role.
Sadly, after the long and bloody fight over health care reform, the bill will not make it out of committee. But the effort was not wasted. Volunteers across the country are organizing and many members of Congress are waking to the urgent needs of those on the autism spectrum.
At this time, our focus needs to be on State-level legislation. The Select Committee for Autism and Public Safety has been conducting hearings for the last three months in order to shape an autism insurance reform bill. The critical vote to send a bill to the legislature will happen on May 10th at 1 PM. If you are able, mark the calendar and plan to attend this very important meeting. Our legislators need to see the faces of autism. The families that struggle everyday not just with autism, but to get the help that their loved ones need so much.
The Legislators on the Committee are as follows:
Sen. William Robert Purcell, MD (Co-Chair)- Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Stanly
Sen. Katie G. Dorsett– Guilford
Sen. James Summers Forrester– Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln
Sen. Linda Dew Garrou– Forsyth
Sen. John J. Snow, Jr.– Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, Transylvania
Rep. Bob F. England, MD (Co-Chair)- Cleveland, Rutherford
Rep. Martha Bedell Alexander– Mecklenburg
Rep. Jerry Charles Dockham– Davidson
Rep. Lindsey Hugh Holliman– Davidson
Rep. Earline W. Parmon– Forsyth
If you live in a county represented by one of the above Legislators, please contact them. Explain to them that live in their district and how autism insurance reform will help you. Most of all remember to thank them for considering this issue. If you do not live in one of these counties, contact your State Representative and Senator to urge them to vote for this bill. All of our voices must be heard if we are to make a difference.
Recently, my wife Laina told me that “this is how you are helping Daniel (our son).” From the time of his diagnosis, Laina has taken the lead learning as much about autism as she could. She attended most of his therapy sessions and when we meet with providers she sounds as if she has been working with ASDs all of her life. I, on the other hand, would sit at the end of the table looking confused and wondering what all of the acronyms mean. As a salesperson, my talents lay in my ability to get in front of decision makers and try to convince them to support what I am offering. Here, I have finally found my niche. For the first time since our roller-coaster ride began, I feel empowered and that I can make a difference for my family and all of the other families facing these same challenges.
Over the course of the last year, what I have learned most of all, is that it does not need to take a lot of time or expertise to speak up for your loved ones; and, if enough of us speak together, we will be heard loud and clear.