(Video of myself, and Latria, a woman supported by my organization, at our annual prom.)
I will not stop advocating for her. For people like Latria.
Two years ago, I started this blog because I wanted to share with you my experiences, both good and bad, as a new nonprofit public relations professional. I knew that I wanted to use my talents and my love for public relations, communications, and outreach to do good in the world. I wasn’t quite sure how that would unfold at that time, and over the last two years, I have discovered exactly what I am passionate about and what my “mission” is. Now I want to share that with you.
I work in the disabilities services field. More specifically, I work for an autism service provider. I had some experience and connection to this type of work through college jobs (I worked in youth programs with the YMCA) and through a family member who worked for the Arc in my hometown. However, it wasn’t until I came to this place that my passion for sharing the stories of people with autism and developmental disabilities* really took shape.
Over 4 million Americans have developmental disabilities. There are 7 to 8 million people with intellectual disabilities in the United States, and an estimated 30 million (one in ten families) are directly affected by a person with intellectual disabilities in their lifetime. People with disabilities (all types) are the largest minority in this country. Bet you didn’t know that. I bet you also didn’t know that for adults, like Latria, with autism and developmental disabilities, there are no uniform (across the country) supports and services. The system and history of community services is complex and will merit another post entirely, but in short, each state determines what (if any) services will be offered and how much support they will provide to adults with autism and developmental disabilities.
Tens of thousands of these adults, like Latria, are sitting (languishing, in most cases) on waiting lists for services.
In Maryland, over 19,000 people are waiting for funding and services provided by the Developmental Disabilities Administration and administered by organizations like ours.
Did you know that? I bet you didn’t. I bet you’re wondering now how you could have not know about 4 million people, the LARGEST minority in the country, and their struggle to live a productive, independent life. If you’re a Marylander, I bet you’re wondering how 19,000 people (the size of a small town-imagine an entire town of people without access to work, housing, recreation, etc.) are sitting at home, more often than not with aging parents, or a parent who had to quit a job to support them, without access to services that can make them a productive, employed, independent and active member of their community.
I hope you are.
If we, as a society, are content to allow the most vulnerable among us suffer in silence, with no real hope of relief, then something is gravely wrong. That is a world that I, for one, cannot live in. I will not live in.
So I will not stop.
*please note that autism is considered a developmental disability. If you want specific numbers about how many people are living with autism, then I suggest you visit the Autism Society of America or Autism Speaks.