Speaking Up For Autism

In a crowded political assembly, reporters’ lights flash and hands shoot up in hopes of asking Governor Mitt Romney a question. In the front of the crowd a small hand is confidently raised and called upon.

“My name is Sam Wessels, I am 9 and here is my question,” the boy speaks clearly into the microphone. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 1 in 5 American children have a learning disability. Mine is autism. What is happening to America’s most precious resource, her children, and what do you plan to do about it? Thank you.”

Sam’s mother, Lin Wessels, says she will never forget how stunned the crowd was to see a young boy speak so confidently and clearly in that high-pressure situation.

This fifth grader from Iowa has spoken with every Republican candidate that toured his state during caucus season and most recently had the chance to speak with President Obama. His goal is to be a voice for the many children with autism who cannot speak.

Lin Wessels is a strong autism advocate. She has raised her son to understand that the American political process is meant to work for all people, no matter their differentiated ability.

“When we’re on the way to event I always talk to Sam about what he wants to say and what is important to him,” she said.

The family’s most exciting moment yet came when the Wessels were able to meet President Obama.

Wessels proudly remembers her son leaning into the President’s ear and asking if he would join him in standing up for people with autism.

Wessels puts aside her party affiliations when it comes to advocating for her son and others with autism. She is respectful of every candidate and makes sure her son understands what an honor it is to speak with these important people.

So how can the public and the government stand up for people with autism? Wessels says that education is the key.

“We need to make sure general education teachers are educated about autism so they know the reasons behind these children’s behavior,” she said. “Another important issue is finding ways for adults with autism to work in our society.”

Wessels says that what stands out to her the most about her and Sam’s journey is the amount of people who connect with them.

“No matter where we go or who we address, there are always people who come up to us afterward and remark on how grateful they are for what we do,” she said. “Especially to Sam for his courage and bravery to fight for a cause that is so near and dear to so many, including himself.”

Visit the Wessels’ YouTube channel to see some of Sam’s interactions with America’s politicians, and hear what they have to say about autism.

Learn the 6 facts you need to know about autism on Parents.com.

Photos courtesy of Lin Wessels

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  1. by stephanie

    On November 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I think this is great. I have a 12.y.o brother he is non verbal autistic.