The Power of Advocacy

At this time of year with election day approaching it seems that everyone is advocating for something. Politicians are advocating their positions on key issues that affect their constituents.  Special interest groups are advocating for the politicians that represent their viewpoints. Business leaders are advocating for candidates that will enhance their prosperity while the underserved are advocating for more attention to their needs.  Opinions run rampant on social media like FACEBOOK and sometimes these opinions run those with opposing viewpoints out of town.

Everywhere one turns, whether tuning into television ( and not only the news show but entertainment shows too espouse political viewpoints) or getting one’s manicure or barbershop crew-cut, people everywhere are advocating their perspectives.  Yes, this is the American way, our first amendment right to free speech, and yes, we Americans hold this near and dear to our hearts and rightfully so!  It is powerful to advocate.

Why is advocacy so powerful?  First, on a primal level, advocacy allows us a vehicle by which to use our brains, formulate an opinion and then passionately share it.  I am not sure the amount of calories burned but perhaps someone has or will do a study as to whether constant advocacy leads to weight loss!  Anyhow, back on topic, it would seem that advocacy is a healthy form of discourse.  However, not always.

A childhood friend of mine was actually threatened and bullied by some other people from our childhood because of his political views that he shared on FACEBOOK.  They even threatened his mother!  This is a sad example of how advocacy can turn ugly and cruel.  There have also been recent instances that I have noticed advocacy envy where advocates who supposedly are working together for a cause, diminish and knit-pick the work that others are doing rather than celebrating the good intentions that create awareness.

In the world of Autism advocacy, many people living with Autism have difficulty with verbal communication (although they find other ways to get their point across for their needs and wants) so they are dependent on their peers who are more verbal, their parents and caregivers and professionals working in the field to express viewpoints.  The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation is extremely proud to have been among the first national Autism organizations and to be the first one focused on adults, to have an Advocates Advisory Board. We have always relied on our Advocates to guide us in our program development and in all else that we do. The Advocates on our Advisory Board all live with the challenges of Autism and some have posted on this blog and others will in the future.  These advocates currently serving as The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation adult self-advocate advisors are: Alex Bond, Stephen Daly, Amy Gravino, Susan Meyer, Jimmy Scancarella and T. Paul Voss. Each of these individuals has had opportunities to represent The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation; for example at: advocacy events; in the media; in pieces they have written for our publications; and social media; and at conferences and round-table think tanks to name a few.

In addition, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation has proudly partnered with Autism organizations led by self advocates such as GRASP, ASAN and ARI and the programs, initiatives and awareness our partnerships have created are ones we take great pride in, especially because these affiliations and valued collaborations are driven by those who are on the front lines of Autism advocacy.  We are also very proud of the fact that these collaborations are serving the needs of the constituents that these organizations represent.

The power of advocacy is potent.  Even one voice can make a difference as we have often seen through history.  But the power of advocacy, like any other kind of power, must be cherished; and it should be used with careful consideration, respect, tolerance and positivity. Self-advocates should not be engaged as poster mannequins but as valued voices who drive the cause they represent. Groups working to achieve societal change and better lives should not vie against one another to be top-dog but rather support and respectfully disagree while mutually encouraging community engagement on the issues they care about. In these best case scenarios the power of advocacy is at its finest.Image

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