O'Brien has autism in his family, and served as co-chair of the state's autism task force. The newspaper reports:
There were no other autism advocates quoted in the newspaper account, but the advocates from Pittsburgh-based AutismLink sounded an optimistic note in their e-mail blast about O'Brien's selection. It was titled: "Breaking News from Harrisburgh!"
At the top of his agenda is funding programs for children with disabilities such as autism, a neurological disorder that his 21-year-old nephew has.
"Children with disabilities are now going to have a place at the table and a place in the budget," Mr. O'Brien said.
When it comes to helping children with disabilities, Mr. O'Brien does more than talk. He volunteers, he leads and he speaks up when an agency or a care provider is falling short of their responsibilities, Mrs. Richman said. [Estelle Richman is state Secretary of Public Welfare Estelle Richman, whom the newspaper reported has known O'Brien for 15 years.]
He is a leading advocate for children with autism. He is a member of the Center for Autistic Children, chairman of the House Autism Caucus and honorary chairman of the state's Autism Task Force.