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Calls to Action

Government Relations

Ann Gibbons, known locally as Philip’s mom, is Autism Speaks’ Senior Regional Director for the Southeast. She writes us from her office in Washington, DC.

In October, I received an email from Stephen Niman at 11th Hour Search, Inc., a veteran-owned small business in northern Virginia. Stephen and his colleagues had purchased and gift-wrapped 18 iPads. He asked me if he could drop them off at my office so I could re-distribute them to autistic children in the military families living and working in northern Virginia.

The participants at last week’s “Autism Speaks to Washington” summit were almost as varied as the spectrum itself.  Moms and dads, academics, health care providers, lobbyists, policymakers, and a host of others who care about individuals with autism gathered to call for action -- and everyone came away with a different experience.

For me, the summit was an opportunity to share my thoughts on legal reforms that are still needed as well as a chance to reconnect and celebrate with amazing advocates from around the country.

I am a busy working mother.  I have 3 boys, the oldest of whom, Ryan, is severely affected by autism.  I suffer from working mother guilt. I always feel like I should be home more with Ryan or with my youngest son who is still in kindergarten, or with my middle child who is probably starved for attention.  But I love my work, because I have the extraordinary fortune of being a professional advocate for the autism community.  I spend my days, as the New York Times once put it, “barnstorm[ing] the country in an effort to get [autism insurance] laws passed.”

This year's celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is marked by new progress at the state and federal levels to increase job opportunities tempered by sobering reminders of the disproportionately high unemployment that persists within the disabilities community.

Autism Speaks is raising awareness of the issue through a series of nationwide Small Business Town Halls, including events Oct. 21 in Dallas and Oct. 23 outside Chicago.