Air, Autism and Advocacy

by Shannon, Well Served Tennis Academy

Today someone said to me, “You should take a break from all of your advocacy work. You’re doing too much.”

But I can’t. This is the air that I breathe.

I’ve got a lot going on.  Most of it is self imposed.  I’m an intuitive person and when my son was diagnosed with autism ten years ago, one of my first realizations was that very few people who could help him get services, an appropriate education and medical care actually KNEW what autism was beyond just the word.  I’m talking politicians and policy makers.  The people who could shape the laws that govern my son’s ability to access ALL the wonderful things this country has to offer, knew…almost…nothing.

So with a healthy dose of terror (which incidentally never goes away) and having the faintest of clues as to how to begin, I began. And one step led to another and before I knew it, I was speaking to state representatives and state senators, Congressmen and Senators, advisors and policy makers.  Before I knew it, I was working with other parents to CHANGE the lives of our children.

And I gulped in the air. Again and again.

It is the air that allows me to be an integral part of the solution. It is the air that allows me to be part of making the world my children live in, the best world it can be for them.  It is the air that I need to help policy makers remember that there are REAL people behind the word autism or autistic. It is the air behind the voice I use to speak for my children. It is my oxygen mask. It is not everyone’s, but it is mine.

Think you can’t do this?  You can.

I am a life long tennis player and the great Arthur Ashe is among my favorite tennis champions.  He said this,”Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”  Start with a call to your legislator. Ask him or her to meet you for coffee. Then breathe.

**********

Shannon Knall is a founding member of the Hartford, Connecticut chapter of Autism Speaks and the Inaugural Walk Chair.  As a volunteer, she is the State Policy Chair for Autism Speaks in Connecticut.  Shannon is also the Executive Director and Founder of Well Served Tennis Academy, a summer camp that provides children with autism in grades 4-8 an opportunity to learn tennis in a social environment

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1 Comment

Filed under Remembering to Breathe, Taking the next step

One response to “Air, Autism and Advocacy

  1. Sister, you know I get this. Because I have dipped a single toe into the raging waters of advocacy and what REAL advocates like you are accomplishing, I know that it truly IS the oxygen that you require. I know that you breathe it in and change it, make it better, make it real to those who were blind to what the world of autism really is.

    Thank you. Breathe on, Sister. Breathe on.

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