In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential politics.Last week, President Biden announces his choices for the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Several have connections to the autism community:
- Nicole Jorwic is the Chief of Advocacy and Campaigns at Caring Across Generations. Before joining Caring Across, Jorwic was Senior Director of Public Policy and Senior Executive Officer of State Advocacy at The Arc of the United States. Before coming to DC to work on Federal Advocacy, she served as Senior Policy Advisor and Manager of the Employment First Initiative in Illinois. Prior to that appointment, Jorwic was the CEO/President of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities. She is also an accomplished special education attorney and an advocate for students with disabilities and their families. Jorwic is most importantly a sibling– her brother Chris is 32 and has autism.
- Cathy Kanefsky’s personal experiences fuel her passion for serving mission-driven organizations. Kanefsky and her husband, Carl, have three sons. Thirty-year-old twins Sam and Adam were born four months early and live with significant physical and intellectual disabilities, including autism. Their 28-year-old son, Stephen, and his wife, Alexandra, are both special education teachers. After 14 years in leadership roles at the March of Dimes, Kanefsky built and led national field operations for Autism Speaks. Following five years as Chief Development Officer at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, she now serves as the President and CEO of the Food Bank of Delaware. Her determination to help those seeking a better future is the foundation for enhancing job training and employment opportunities at the Food Bank – for all people – including those with intellectual disabilities.
- M. Brent Leonhard is an Attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. He has spent his career advocating for the advancement and expansion of the rights of tribal nations and citizens. In 2011, Leonhard was appointed to Attorney General Eric Holder’s Federal/Tribal Domestic Violence Taskforce. In 2015, he was appointed to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Tribal Issues Advisory Group. As a parent of an Autistic child, he is intimately familiar with the structural and systemic problems and frustrations those with intellectual or developmental disabilities face. Leonhard is intent on advocating for significant improvements to federal law and policy in this area.
- Jordyn Zimmerman is a recent graduate from Boston College, where she earned her Masters of Education. Before graduate school, she interned at the National Disability Rights Network and completed her bachelor’s degree in Education Policy at Ohio University. As a nonspeaking autistic student who was denied access to effective augmentative communication until she was 18, Zimmerman has personal experience challenging the educational status quo, which is featured in the 2021 documentary, This Is Not About Me. Zimmerman also serves on the board of CommunicationFIRST and is passionate about ensuring every student is able to access effective communication and exercise their right to a truly inclusive education.