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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

September 30th, 2010 3:51 PM

Gimme a Break, Real Women Don’t Abhor Compassion

It’s about now that the campaign ads start to annoy beyond belief – especially in this year of the nasty, selfish and supposedly self-made, conservative woman candidate. They may not know it, but compassion is strength. It’s easy to be selfish and self-absorbed but it takes a real woman to show compassion in times of challenge in relationships, in communities and in our nation, and then back it up with action. So far, the candidates calling themselves “Mama Grizzlies” want to brand themselves as tough enough to throw the weak and the suffering to the curb in order to display appropriate conservative credentials. Yuck.

This might someday be known as the year of the ugly, self-absorbed, anti-family, pro-corporate profits female candidate. Sad to see when we all know so many wonderful and balanced women are out there and fully capable of serving.

A group of providers and parents gathered in Reno, Nevada, today to discuss the remarks U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle made about autism and people with autism and people who try to serve people who have autism. In keeping with her arrogant brand of elitist conservatism, Angle believes that the law so hard fought to win in Nevada, AB162, which provides mandated coverage of treatment for those with autism is just a cover, a ploy for those who would develop, as she puts it, cottage industries to benefit from providing autism treatment to people who may have been inappropriately diagnosed – purposely to bilk the system – with autism.

As I watched the parents recount their stories and watched them cry out with rage and anger that anyone, much less a candidate for the U.S. Senate, would think being diagnosed with autism would be a ploy to use services from unscrupulous providers who will “crop up” to take advantage of new ways to get paid for services rendered, I saw real courage. Moms and dads want their autistic kids to have a chance to overcome some of the tremendous obstacles their biomedical conditions present. Evidence based treatments have proven effective for many and provided what little relief some of these families have ever known from the ravages of this disease.

Ralph Toddre, juggernaut of autism advocacy in Nevada, said that of the 7,000 children ages 3-21 in Nevada who have autism, up to 80 percent will need long-term custodial care unless they have early and effective treatment. That long-term custodial care costs billions in Nevada alone. Providing the right kind of care presents a huge potential savings for all of us in the long run, and it gives these children and their families the only hope many have had of anything close to a normal life.

Nevada State Assemblyman David Bobzien, one of the many co-sponsors of AB162, recounted his own brush with serious medical trauma in his family. His now-20-month-old twin sons were born prematurely and spent many weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit. He said while he could not know what being a parent of an autistic child felt like, he knew what it felt like to pray every night that God just give his children a chance – a chance to live, a chance to dream and a chance to become what they could become.

Bobzien added, “The cost savings of providing treatment were completely absent from Ms. Angle’s comments – for insurers and for taxpayers – for all of us.”

Sharron Angle doesn’t like that. She thinks families and kids and providers dealing with autism are scammers, folks on the dole, and she’s out to make sure they don’t get undeserved entitlements – oh, and so goes the battle-cry of the selfish mama grizzly candidate and her clones.

Young mothers gathered at the Advanced Learning Center in Reno told common stories of families ripped apart emotionally and financially when they had to fight to get appropriate treatment, and they shared to courage, strength and hope many have felt with access to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatments for their children. Center directors Kendra Richards and Ken MacAleese made the strong case for the clinical efficacy of the treatments; Toddre made the policy points.

But it was the breathtaking courage of the young moms that turned the round table discussion into an affirmation of the humanity they have for their children, for one another, for the providers who touch their lives and for the legislators – Democrats and Republicans alike – who worked to pass Nevada’s AB162.

The young parents were also united in their rage and disbelief that Angle would make such selfish and ill-advised remarks about autism and about their struggle. Some felt Angle’s remarks exhibited a discriminatory attitude toward people with disabilities.

But the room quieted and those in attendance cried quietly when one mom said, “Every parent should have the right to dream about their child’s future. And every child has a right to a future.”

That’s strength. That’s compassion. That’s courage under fire. And that’s what makes the selfish, cruel, short-sighted and ill-informed comments of Sharron Angle so repugnant. She doesn’t seem like the right fit to represent these women in Washington. She’s not in their league.

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