Every year, the state legislature of Florida gathers in Tallahassee for 60 days to deliberate bills, hold hearings and pass legislation. This small time window doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for just anyone to come up and talk to the legislators during the session, but I was able to advocate for a day.
The organization I advocated on behalf of was the University of Miami division of CARD, the Center for Autism and Related Disorders. As a sibling of a person with Autism, I’ve worked with CARD in the past for various events and workshops to help families of Autistic people and learn more about dealing with it myself.
CARD is itself not a social or educational program, it’s a technical assistance organization based off of many universities in Florida. It provides help for parents, research, community outreach and job training workshops for Autistic people. However, the number of people covered by CARD has increased by 30 percent in the last few years, and no new funding has been authorized by the state since 2014. In order to continue providing the services Autistic people and their families need, the organization needed to go to Tallahassee and ask the legislators for more money.
My time in Tallahassee lasted just under 24 hours last week, but I spoke to more than one dozen state senators, state representatives and their staffs. Running from office to office was hectic, but I got a feel for the Capitol and learned more about the legislative process and what’s going on in politics up there. The city itself is fairly small, its main attractions being the Capitol buildings and FSU, but it was buzzing with activity. All of the officials were receptive to our messages, but it’s hard to say whether polite attention and encouraging words will lead to real help to the Autistic community. Regardless, I enjoyed being able to contribute to this important mission and I hope other Heritage students try to advocate for the causes they believe in as well, and if you want to help CARD with their work, visit http://www.umcard.org/ to learn more.