Meet Chade` K.
Chade` K., 30
As a volunteer advocacy ambassador, I work with my assigned representative to increase autism awareness and advocate for legislation like the Autism CARES act.
Growing up, Chade` often felt misunderstood, even labeled as a "weird kid" who didn't quite fit in. Deep down, she knew she was different than most of her friends and classmates, but it wasn't until she was 24 years old, when she was diagnosed with autism, that she finally felt like she could be the person she was always meant to be.
Now 30, Chade` says her autism diagnosis provided her with an overwhelming sense of relief. With the help of her neurotypical husband, Oliver, and various other support systems she discovered through her work as an avid self-advocate, Chade` is thriving in all facets of her life: She recently celebrated her 1-year wedding anniversary, is just a month away from receiving her associate's degree in criminal justice administration and is halfway through writing a crime novel, which she hopes to have published within two years.
Another of Chade`’s proud accomplishments is her work as a member of Autism Speaks Volunteer Advocacy Ambassador Network, where she serves as the main point of contact for her local legislators, spreads awareness of the needs of people with autism and helps to build relationships between constituents and legislators at the federal level. This diverse group of advocates includes nearly 345 volunteers from 46 states and the District of Columbia.
1. What inspired you to join the Autism Speaks Volunteer Advocacy Ambassador Network?
As an adult on the spectrum, I wanted to raise awareness in my community and advocate for change. In Colorado Springs, autism is not understood, and the services are limited once you reach adulthood. There is one center that provides mental health, speech and other therapy services past age 17. Transition services for people like me are practically nonexistent. Therefore, I want to advocate for myself and others like me that do not have the means to do so themselves. Change happens when awareness is increased. And awareness is increased when people are willing to share their journey with others. Through the Volunteer Advocacy Ambassador Network, I have the unique opportunity to do both.
2. What is the main goal of the Advocacy Ambassador Network and why is it such an instrumental tool to raise awareness?
To bring people on the spectrum out of shadows and make representatives of their state aware of the need to support autism. In my city, representatives were not aware of the need for the autism community. Through this program, we (as a community that supports autism or are on the spectrum), are able to educate and breed support for autism legislation.
3. What are your responsibilities as a volunteer advocacy ambassador?
As a volunteer advocacy ambassador, I work with my assigned representative to increase autism awareness and advocate for legislation like the Autism CARES act. I promote disability awareness in my community through various methods. I provide trainings and conduct speeches often in my community on autism.
4. What would you tell someone out there with autism who may be thinking about becoming a self-advocate?
Believe in your ability to make change for your life. Even the smallest change will happen by you advocating for yourself. Which will lead to bigger changes for the future of the autism community and autism supporters. Never give up because you have the right to education, healthcare and any other feature offered in your community.
5. What does having autism mean to you?
To me, people with autism are just a group of unique individuals with great ideas and different ways of thinking.