Power of One March—Of Progress and Partnership By Lisa Wiederlight, executive director, SafeMinds Photos Courtesy of Jenn Bubb-Brown

April 17, 2016


Twelve years ago, just one year after my son was diagnosed, I attended the Power of One March in Washington, DC. Former NFL quarterback Dan Marino and a slew of congressional leaders took the stage behind the fearless Shelley Hendrix of Unlocking Autism, and her son, Liam. I was still shell shocked by my son’s diagnosis, and was looking for a sense of community and hope. I remember Shelley telling the crowd that the doctors told her that Liam would never talk. She then handed the microphone to him, and he read the pledge of allegiance aloud-hope found.

On April 2, I had the honor of speaking on that stage, as executive director of SafeMinds. The crowd had familiar faces, including Shelley and Liam, and many more new faces. I was thrilled to have a conversation with Liam. After the presentations from people with autism, parents of children with autism, and a sibling of a child with autism, SafeMinds board president Sallie Bernard, board treasurer Heidi Roger, and myself walked with community members from as far away as Texas, Michigan, Virginia, and places beyond. On our march from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, we met new friends and contacts who will bring SafeMinds message and mission to their friends and contacts back home. Our movement has, and always will, grow organically-parent to parent, friend to friend.


It was refreshing to be around people from all walks of life who also live the “autism life,” who also want to find ways to prevent autism, while improving the safety, health, and well-being of persons with autism and their families today. Twelve years ago, autism prevalence was nowhere near 1 in 45. The U.S. Government has spent over $1 billion with no new treatments found, and no cause identified. There is much work to be done, and partnership is now a necessity.

In addition to my presentation in conjunction with the Power of One March, SafeMinds board president Sallie Bernard (pictured below right) also spoke at a congressional breakfast attended by autism community activists and congressional staffers. Sallie spoke about the Autism Safety Coalition’s work to pass Kevin and Avonte’s Law Act of 2016. Kevin Roig, of Louisiana Congressman Garrett Graves’ office, presented an initiative proposed by the Congressman that will direct the Department of Health and Human Services to work to develop protocols to improve the treatment and coordination of care for physical and mental health comorbidities found in children 26251573551_9bd2e19fb1_o.1with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, and to report their findings on this project to Congress. This project represents an opportunity to improve the health of so many of our children whose seizures, gastrointestinal issues, sleep disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression are overlooked due to their primary diagnosis.

It’s clear that the federal government has failed to provide the funding needed to end the autism epidemic and meet the needs of the autism community. This inactivity and lack of accountability threatens the health and welfare of our families, communities, and economy.

The Power of One gives our community an opportunity to SHOW UP and STAND UP so that our elected officials will know that our community, even with its differences, is strong and unified in its purpose. Woody Allen once said, “80 percent of success is showing up.” In Washington, DC, it’s the squeaky wheel that doesn’t fall off that gets the most attention. SafeMinds is prepared to SHOW UP and STAND UP at the next Power of One March on April 2, 2017, and we hope you will join us. For more information on the Power of One March, visit www.powerofonemarch.org.

To read my remarks from the Power of One stage, click here.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons