Oddly enough, some of autism's best elected friends often find themselves in choppy political waters. Autism knows no political party and so people that call for serious investigations as to why there is an autistic child born for every 150 births are often from all ideological backgrounds.
Dan Burton, the conservative congressman from Indiana, is so conservative he gets straight A's from gun ownership organizations and was constantly suspicious of then President Clinton. When Burton's grandchild was diagnosed with autism, however, he felt there was a need for government involvement.
As chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he asked for investigations into what causes autism. A common belief among families and advocates of autism is that the Thiomersal in vaccines is a cause of autism. (This has been disputed with great amounts of money by the American Medical Association.) What makes this more interesting is that pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, which makes Thiomersal, is one of the biggest employers in Burton's state.
Congressman Burton lost that chairmanship, and that was before his party lost the majority in the house. On the local level, enter Hiram Monserrate. Monserrate was instrumental in securing safe school busses for children with autism. He attends meetings at civic organizations. Now, however, he has a few other things on his plate…like proving his innocence in an assault investigation.
It is merely coincidence that advocates for this disease have lost traction. Sarah Palin, in her convention speech, mentioned autism and has remained a voice for the disease. In fairness, she also called for across-the-board cuts in her state's budget – and that includes social services.
If the widespread epidemic of autism (rates are higher in London) is due to vaccines, there are explanations owed from pharmaceutical companies. And that could be a legal bloodbath for which they are quite concerned. If the vaccines are not the cause, then there still needs to be an explanation as to why so many children are diagnosed with autism. Why is the disease not as common in rural areas? Is it because children in larger cities get bulk vaccines?
It is unfortunate for families that deal with autism that the people that champion this issue are not greater in number. It is only through government, through politicians, that public policy on this issue gets focused. It should not take a politician to have a child with special needs in order for them to get involved.
You can help families with autism. Each year, New York Families for Autistic Children holds its major fundraiser at Russo's On the Bay in Howard Beach. This year, the event will be held on Thursday, February 26. NYFAC sponsors recreational programs for children with autism, including little league, bowling, and crafts. They also lobby in Washington for better legislation. They even train teachers to deal with autistic children.
The goal of NYFAC is to make an autistic child's life as close to normal as it can be. This is why NYFAC allows an autistic child to bring along with them a friend or sibling that is not autistic. It's a way of assimilating children with special needs and making them feel every bit as involved as other kids their age.
Because of this, however, NYFAC doesn't get a great deal of state aid. When government aids a program for children with special needs, stipulations are often that there cannot be children without special needs absorbing those funds. So in order to stick to the plan and have autistic children mix with non-autistic children, the organization has to raise its own money. This event is a big boost to the cause of helping families.
You can visit their website and call about the fundraiser. It's a great event, and there are plenty of faces that you will recognize – local officials, business people, etc. Russo's does a great job at hostin this event, and if you have never been to this place, this is a good reason to go. It's also entirely tax-deductible.
You should never find yourself in dizzying feeling of hearing that your child is autistic, but your help goes a very long way for these people and this organization. I should know, I became a trustee at New York Families for Autistic Children in 2001.