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I want a job in government as a disability policy advisor

Posted Nov 18 2012 3:18pm

I am interested in moving from academia and writing to the field of government policy advising, particular in autism and disability policies. I would like to work at the federal or state (Massachusetts) level. I have a great deal of relevant experience and skills for this type of job. I currently work part time as Director of Autism Adulthood Services and Outreach for the Community College Consortium for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities (CCCAID). In September I was on a panel at the Association of Community College Trustees annual conference. There I spoke of the pressing need for community colleges to develop programs dedicated to serving the needs of those with autism and intellectual disabilities, who often graduate at 22 from the public schools with little or no vocational or independent living skills.

Community college, however, is just one area that society needs to rethink in terms of those with autism and other disabilities. Adult disability services in general, and the systems these adults must navigate, also need this country’s attention and support. I know about this firsthand: my son Nat is 23 and has fairly severe autism. I got my disability education and experience the hard way, by making many mistakes, thinking on my feet, and flying by the seat of my pants. I became a writer to raise public awareness of what parents like me face; back then the number of kids on the Spectrum was only just beginning to balloon, and society was simply not prepared.  I worked as an education columnist for our local paper and also began writing pieces for the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and eventually wrote three books on autism and the family. My articles on Special Olympics helped forge my friendship with Tim Shriver, their CEO and Chairman. Tim invited me to a White House dinner in July 2006, where I made connections with Maria Shriver, the late Senator Kennedy, Senator Chris Dodd, and others involved with Special Olympics. I also had the privilege of giving a copy of my first book, Making Peace With Autism, to the First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush.

On a local level, when I discovered that our school system had no autism programs, I ran for School Committee, where I served for five years, on several initiatives, one of which was the Legislative Subcommittee. My colleagues and I created an annual breakfast for our legislative delegation, making the case for more money for education and improvements to our state’s implementation of IDEA. This experience allowed me to form positive relationships with members of our State House, which I still maintain today; most recently I spoke with my state senator’s office volunteering to help on an election bill that would simplify voter registration here in Massachusetts.

I have been very politically active in my state and town, joining and founding various parent and advocacy organizations, holding forums at the State House and lobbying with our Arc on budgetary issues. On a national level, I have been giving workshops and keynotes to autism and disability professionals and parents like me, and always, also learning from them – and above all, learning from my son.

I would bring all of my years of advocacy experience, my writing skills, my speaking skills, my passion, and my energy to disability policy. I can also offer my facility for understanding and articulating issues and solutions that can help people like my son live fulfilled lives through work, continuing education, and community inclusion. Working in disability policy feels to me like a logical and exciting next phase in my journey as an advocate, writer, and mother. My CV is at the link here.

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