With All Eyes On Swine Flu, Thousands of Parents Ask President Obama “How Much Longer” Until Autism Gets Similar Attention
WASHINGTON, DC - Just since midnight, over 50,000 letters have gone to President Barack Obama and others as part of a new campaign to bring attention to the rising numbers of autism cases. The National Autism Association (NAA) declared today as National “How Much Longer” Day for Autism, a day of letter-writing to the media, health agencies, Department of Education, lawmakers and the Obama Administration asking for such things as health insurance coverage, federal laws to protect special-ed students from dangerous restraint and seclusion practices in schools, safer vaccines, and for autism to be declared a nation health crisis. Seeing how much attention is being paid to the H1N1 virus, many parents are wondering why autism is the fastest growing disorder, yet has received very little aid.
In a letter to its members, NAA stated, “We've asked for [help] politely, impolitely, loudly, softly, creatively, professionally, in small numbers and in large...we’ve asked and we’ve asked again. But as it stands today, we have more cases of abuse, wandering-related deaths, seizure-related deaths, bankruptcies and divorce in our community than ever before. With the fatigue that comes from constant uphill battles, along with a gross lack of resources, we live in a permanent state of asking one question: How Much Longer?”
Eight ads have gone out over the last six weeks promoting the “How Much Longer” campaign. When asking the public to participate, NAA says, “Say yes only if you don’t mind a little controversy. This campaign isn’t warm and fuzzy and it’s far from polite. It’s edgy, sarcastic and harsh at times, but when you live day to day seeing an increasing number of children suffer from vulgar abuse, impossible challenges, even death, you tend to put graceful asks aside for a message that people might actually notice.”
The group reports that out of all the autism campaigns they’ve done, this by far has received the highest amount of response.
“We’ve had an overwhelming amount of feedback, mostly positive, but this campaign isn’t for everyone,” says Ann Brasher, Vice President of NAA. “We essentially call the CDC out for labeling us as ‘anti-vaccine’ every time we ask a question about vaccine safety. We call out the NIH for directing more dollars towards genetic research when environmental factors are playing a huge role in triggering autism, and we call out the Department of Education for their slow response in keeping more special-ed students from being abused and killed in our school systems. We’ve gone out on a limb here to say what needs to be said.”
The group’s letter to President Obama covers the daily challenges of living with autism. “Most days, we don’t know which issue to tackle first,” states Rita Shreffler, NAA Executive Director. “There are too many and we’re overwhelmed. We’ve asked President Obama to declare autism a national health crisis so that autism may receive the attention it needs and our children may receive the basic resources they deserve.”
According to a recently released survey by the National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH), which is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Autism Spectrum Disorders now affect 1 in 100 children.
“It’s time for answers,” says Brasher. “It’s long overdue.”