Autism Votes is the Advocacy initiative of Autism Speaks. Our focus is two-fold:
1) Maximizing support and funding for autism research, surveillance, awareness and services
2) Working in state capitals, Congress and the courts for autism insurance reform that maximizes coverage for evidence-based treatments including behavioral health treatments
Every member of the Autism Votes team is the parent of a child with autism.
Email us an Advocacy Question at email@example.com
Or, call the Autism Speaks Government Relations team at: (646) 367-5334
Our Mailing Address:
1 East 33rd Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10024
The Autism Speaks Government Relations Team
Peter Bell, Executive Vice President, Programs and Services
Peter oversees the foundation's government relations and family services activities and also serves as an advisor to the science division. Prior to his role at Autism Speaks, Peter was President and Chief Executive Officer of Cure Autism Now, which merged with Autism Speaks in February 2007.
Peter joined Cure Autism Now in 2004 following a successful 12-year marketing career at McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, a member of the Johnson and Johnson family of companies. As President and CEO, Peter led Cure Autism Now through a tremendous growth period and brought the foundation’s funding total to more than $39 million. In addition, Peter enhanced the foundation’s research, education and outreach initiatives, and expanded its treatment portfolio.
Peter received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and holds an MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. Peter and his wife, Liz, reside in New Jersey with their three children. Their eldest son, Tyler, has autism.
Stuart Spielman, Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel
Responsible for managing federal government affairs, Stuart advocates on Capitol Hill and before federal agencies for research and services that can improve the lives of children and adults on the autism spectrum.
As a volunteer in the late 1990’s, Stuart championed several state-based initiatives, including the nation’s first Medicaid home- and community-based services waiver for children with autism. Stuart’s most recent efforts have principally been in the federal arena. He has worked on the Children’s Health Act of 2000, the Combating Autism Act of 2006, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, and other significant legislation.
Stuart began working for Autism Speaks in January 2008. He holds a juris doctor degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Law and a master in laws in taxation from the New York University School of Law. He and his wife Mona are the parents of two teenage boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.
Karen Driscoll, Associate Director for Federal Government Affairs and Military Relations
Karen Driscoll is a Marine Corps wife and mother of three (one with autism). Finding appropriate treatment and supports for their son with autism has come at a high cost emotionally and financially for the Driscoll family. Understanding these challenges are more difficult for younger military families, Karen has advocated for TRICARE policy and family support program improvements to better the lives of military children with special needs. Karen has worked with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, senior military leadership, military families from all branches of service, and national policy and advocacy organizations to bring about positive legislative and family support improvements. She has been recognized by the Marine Corps League (Dickey Chapelle Award), National Military Families Association (Very Important Patriot Award), the Organization for Autism Research (Jae Davis Award), and the San Diego Military Advisory Council (2011 Achievement Award) for her advocacy and focus to improve the lives of military families with disabilities.
At Autism Speaks, Karen develops, enacts, and implements federal initiatives impacting the autism community. She works with federal agencies, military officials, families, and Congress to improve the lives of individuals with autism and their families.
Lorri Unumb, Esq., Vice President for State Government Affairs
Lorri began her work in autism advocacy as a volunteer. In 2005, she wrote ground-breaking autism insurance legislation for South Carolina (“Ryan’s Law,” named after her oldest child) that passed in 2007 and served as a catalyst for the national movement toward autism insurance reform. Lorri joined Autism Speaks in September 2008 as Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel and since that time has worked to enact autism insurance legislation across the country.
Lorri has been recognized with the Jefferson Award for Public Service; the Autism Society of America 2008 “Parents of the Year” award (along with her husband Dan); and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s Michael Hemingway Award. Her work has been profiled on CNN, on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and in Town & Country magazine, which named her one of three 2009 “Women Who Make a Difference.”
Prior to joining Autism Speaks, Lorri enjoyed a fulfilling career as a litigator and law professor: as a federal law clerk, an Honor Program attorney with the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice, a full-time professor at George Washington University Law School, an inaugural faculty member at the Charleston School of Law, and finally as Associate Director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center.
Lorri lives in South Carolina with her husband Dan and three sons, Ryan (who has autism), Christopher; and Jonathan.
Judith Ursitti, Director, State Government Affairs
Judith has over a decade of experience in tax accounting, but became heavily involved in autism advocacy when her son Jack was diagnosed with autism in 2005. Since that time, she has participated in the passage of autism insurance reform legislation in more than a dozen states, testifying at numerous hearings and working with stakeholders and legislators across the country.
Before joining the Autism Speaks government relations team, she volunteered as advocacy chair for the organization’s New England and North Texas chapters, chaired the inaugural Dallas Fort Worth Walk Now for Autism Speaks and served as a member of the Parent Advisory Council for Autism Speaks 100-Day Kit. Judith was awarded the Margaret L. Bauman, M.D. Award for Excellence within the Autism Community in 2009.
Judith holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Georgia College and State University and is a Certified Public Accountant. She and her husband Andy live in Dover, Massachusetts and are parents to two children, Amy and Jack.
Mike Wasmer, Associate Director, State Government Affairs
Mike brings over 10 years’ experience in autism advocacy and government relations. Since 2002, he has served as an appointed member of the Kansas Governor’s Commission on Autism. In 2006, Mike founded the Kansas Coalition for Autism Legislation (KCAL), which has grown to over 1,500 members. KCAL was the driving force behind legislation that created the Kansas Autism Task Force where Mike chaired the subcommittee on Insurance.
Most recently, Mike and the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training co-hosted a statewide meeting on the implementation of HB 2160, the autism insurance legislation that passed in 2010 under Mike’s leadership.
Mike holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Loyola University, Maryland and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from The Ohio State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. Mike is also a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. He has a child with autism.
Charles Dulaney, Esq., Legal and Compliance Administrator
Charles joined the Autism Speaks Government Relations team to oversee the team’s contractual relationships with state lobbyists across the country and to insure compliance with state ethics laws. Before joining Autism Speaks, Charles was in private practice as an attorney focused on the representation of individuals with special needs under federal and state law.
Charles is a graduate of the Universty of Mississippi and the Charleston School of Law, where he served as a Legal Writing Teaching Fellow, Administrative Editor of the Federal Courts Law Review and as a member of the Moot Court Board. Charles lives in South Carolina where he works from the Autism Speaks State Government Affairs Office in Lexington.
Shelley Hendrix, Director, Grassroots Development
Shelley’s son, Liam, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two in 1998. Since that diagnosis, Shelley has become a leader in the autism community, organizing political rallies across the country and teaching parents how to get involved in government activity. She began working at Autism Speaks in September of 2007.
Shelley has served on an advisory panel with the U.S. Department of Defense Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Program for Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs since the program's inception in 2007. This program works to fund and develop innovative strategies in autism research with a goal of helping people impacted with autism.
In 2005, Spectrum Publications named Shelley “Person of the Year” for her work within the autism community and in 2006 she was named one of the Top 10 Faces of Autism. She graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA with a double major in political science and art history.