Two years after my daughter on the autistic spectrum graduated from Pace University (cum laude), she still has no job, no comprehensive vocational training, and no life skills help. After mountains of paperwork have been signed, approved and shuffled back and forth, Samantha waits—along with a shockingly large disabled population—for help that is promised, but never actually arrives. According to an annual survey by the Census Bureau, only 24% of people with cognitive disabilities aged 16-64 work. Equally sad, only 35% in the same age group with ANY disability are currently employed. My daughter is now 25. How long must she wait for housing, a job, and inclusion in our society? If we don’t want the answer to be 10 years, 15 years or after we’re dead, I strongly urge all families of young adults with disabilities to register their sons and daughters to vote before it’s too late. We need to teach all disabled young people how and why to vote for Hillary Clinton. If you’re a parent worried about the future of your disabled offspring, the time to act is NOW.
With all of the many life skills Samantha still needs to learn, politics and voting are not at the top of my list. My daughter has little interest in or understanding of elections and is mostly clueless about the differences between Republicans and Democrats. For Samantha, politicians are like abstract ideas—slippery and confusing (ha ha!)—and must be broken down into what she calls “small, manageable bites” for her to comprehend. Yes, I know that explaining the 2016 presidential election will be a daunting and time-consuming task. Samantha was EXTREMELY motivated to learn difficult concepts so she could graduate from college and be more like her neurotypical twin brother. Earning “A”s and her parents’ pride in her academic accomplishment energized her to spend hours deciphering difficult reading with her tutors, rewriting and editing papers numerous times and advocating for herself with teachers. Mention politics? Her eyes glaze over. She is probably one of the few people on our planet that doesn’t know (or care) who Trump is.
After reading in today’s New York Times (9/22/16) that Clinton views the disabled as “vital allies,” I have decided that there’s a moral imperative to at least TRY to explain to my daughter why she must register to vote. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who has proposed ANY programs to help adults on the spectrum lead dignified and meaningful lives. (We all know how the other candidate feels about disabled people). Samantha’s immediate future and long-term tomorrows are at stake in this election. However difficult and tedious the process might be to persuade Samantha and others like her to vote, I feel strongly that all parents must try. If the margin for a Clinton victory is slim, why not have disabled adults cast the deciding votes? This election is too important for anyone to skip. But for the voiceless, marginalized many—which includes my sweet and vulnerable Samantha—voting for the only presidential candidate who cares about autism is a rare opportunity to be heard.