God bless America because we have freedom of speech. In school, I learned about the freedoms we have in America, but never thought much about it. I didn’t appreciate what a great country America is. I didn’t say a perfect country, I said a great country. People are trying to come to our country everyday.
I never thought about freedom of speech until I became the parent of a son who cannot talk, so I have to speak for him. As I met others who cannot talk, I realized that I could speak for them. Someone had to.
So that is why I tell my autism story, even though it is not a success story. I came very close to “keeping my mouth shut” because my story was not a story that everyone wanted to hear. It was extremely difficult because I was a shy person, but I learned from other parents who were speaking for their children.
When PJ was diagnosed, autism was so rare that it didn’t even have its own medical category. I became a member of the Board of Directors of MSAC (Michigan Society for Autistic Citizens), now Autism Society of Michigan in 1982 when PJ was seven years old. The board members had been to the State Capital in Lansing to a legislative session to get a separate medical category for autism. They had been turned down.
When I joined the board, we were set to try again. That’s something else I learned from parents, not to give up on something as important as this. I also learned that in America, we can change a law if enough people present the right information in the right way.
After the board members had reworked our petition to satisfy the requirements, we were ready to try again. We said that if we got turned down again, we would take our children the next time, because our lawmakers did not really understand why autism needed a separate category. If we could not tell them, we would show them.
I will never forget the drive to Lansing. I was the only person coming from Detroit, so I had to drive there by myself. We were due to meet at the State Capital at 7:30 a.m. It was dark and raining when I left home and it rained all the way there. This was before the days of mapquest and cell phones, so of course, I got lost because my directions were not correct. No businesses were open for me to make a phone call. I finally passed a factory that had a huge door open, so I stopped and asked the workers how to get to the State Capital.
When I finally arrived, I was escorted to the session that had already started. I was hoping that this time we would get a separate category for autism. The Bill passed and it became a law that autism now had its own medical category. God bless America where I got to see the legislative process at work.
I’d thought that I was through speaking up for people with autism, but here I am again. I am not always comfortable speaking up, but sometimes you want something said so bad that you have to say it yourself. Thank God I live in America where I have the right to say what is on my mind.
Until next time: May the Love of God enfold you. May the Power of God protect you.