Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NAA NY Metro Commemorates Autism Awareness Month: NYC City Hall Autism Awareness Event

On April 5, 2011, in recognition of Autism Awareness Month, NAA NY Metro and its supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall in New York City. The event was MC’d by the co-chair of NAA NY Metro’s Parent Mentoring Committee, Dara Berger, who shared her own family’s journey of helping her son.

NAA NY Metro also was pleased and honored that William Lopez, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities at NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, joined us and addressed our group.

Continuing parents’ personal stories, Dara was followed by Ken Siri, a single dad who shared his son’s story, with frankness and with humor. Following Ken was NAA Board Member Katie Wright, a mom and advocate, who shared powerful words about her own family’s journey.

Next, Kim Mack Rosenberg, NAA NY Metro’s new President, spoke about the importance of awareness and advocacy, and how we can all take little steps in our daily lives to make those around us more aware of what autism is and what impact it has on a family. She also explained that it is important to have our voices heard in local government, in Albany and in Washington DC – and how simple steps like an email, a phone call, fax or letter can make a big difference.

Kim then presented NAA NY Metro’s 2011 Spirit of Hope Award to Mary Holland, in recognition for her tireless advocacy work and her “never give up” attitude that embodies the spirit of hope. In accepting the award, Mary shared some of her own experiences as a mother and an advocate and discussed the importance of the work that we as parents and advocates do. Mary is a research scholar at NYU School of Law, director of the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law & Advocacy, a founding board member of the Center for Personal Rights, and an editor of and contributor to the groundbreaking book, Vaccine Epidemic.

Dara then introduced Mary Coyle, to address “Fighting Back and Winning.” Mary spoke of her own son’s challenges and successes and shared how well he is doing today. Her story was an inspiration to parents who dream that their child with ASD will achieve great success in life. Mary is also a homeopath with extensive training in homotoxicology and through her work, she helps other parents achieve success with their children as well.

Finally, Khalid Rehman, Chair of the Advocacy Committee gave an update on current advocacy efforts and shared a beautiful poem written by Danson Mandela Wambua, a non-verbal young boy with autism, capturing so poignantly that so many of our children are full of insight, intelligence and life but have difficulty communicating and sharing all they know.

While April is Autism Awareness Month, NAA NY Metro strives to make every day one in which autism awareness, education, advocacy and change happen.

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