A copy of my remarks today at our 7th Annual Autism Awareness Day in Hartford.

So, when I was thinking about what to say today, the word that came to mind was -  Hope.   Ok, so it’s written on the ASCONN pen (Help now.  Hope for the future).  Nonetheless, it’s the word that spoke to me about today’s 7th Annual Autism Awareness Month Event.  As I talk to people about coming up to Hartford for the event, I’m often asked “why?” or “what’s the purpose?”   Why do we come together on Autism Awareness Day?  Why not every day.  What makes this day different from all other days?  After all, autism is a 24/7 disorder, it doesn’t just come for one day, or one week or one month and every family member in this room can testify that it doesn’t go away after April . . .

Nevertheless this is an important event.  We come together, parents, families, professionals, persons on the spectrum, legislators, policy makers and others to recognize the work of our advocates and champions in Hartford.  Whether it is passing legislation to make sure that those who work with our children have the appropriate credentials to do so, expanding insurance coverage for autism services, or creating supportive opportunities for our adults on the spectrum to live successful lives within their own communities.  Each of these “pieces of the puzzle” as it were, however seemingly small or large, provide the “help now” that leads to “hope for the future”.

As advocates, it is important to take these moments to look back, to see where we’ve come from, to celebrate our successes and achievements as we take a breath before we get back to the work at hand.  As parents of children with special needs, we need to do this often, as we check back on the progress our kids have made as we move forward into the future.  Without knowing where we have been and how we have gotten to where we are today, we won’t move into tomorrow with clear vision.  Albert Einstein once said “LEARN from yesterday, LIVE for today, HOPE for tomorrow.”  That is what we do today.

I spent some time this weekend looking to find just the right quote about “hope” .  The one that says everything I wanted it to say.

Emily Dickinson said “Hope is the thing with feathers that rests in the soul.”

According to Helen Keller, “nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

But I also watched sports.  Baseball season began this weekend with great hope for the Red Sox, not so much for my beloved Mets.   No hope for my Yale Bulldogs Hockey team that won’t make it to the frozen four after a great season.  Great hope for the UCONN Huskies (both men and women) to do the double championship AGAIN. So it seems only fitting to end with a quote from basketball great Earvin Magic Johnson -

“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and someone who believes in them.”

On this Autism Awareness Day, I would like to thank all of you here, parents, family members, self advocates, legislative members, policy makers and others for believing in our kids and our families. I would ask you as we face difficult budgetary and policy decisions in these economic times that you continue to believe in our kids.  With your continued support and advocacy we can go far and we can create the world we envision where persons on the autism spectrum have the opportunities that every member of our community deserves – for education, for success, for employment, for friends, for happiness.