Thursday, January 04, 2007

Pennsylvania House Elects Speaker With Autism Services Agenda

Rep. Dennis O'Brien, a Philadelphia Republican, is the new House Speaker in Pennsylvania. It's a national story because of the politics of the situation -- even though the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has a slim Democratic majority, the members on Wednesday elected a moderate Republican as speaker because they favored him over a previous Democratic leader. But an important byproduct of this political development is that it has the potential to puts autism services on the front-burner in state affairs, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports in this article.

O'Brien has autism in his family, and served as co-chair of the state's autism task force. The newspaper reports:

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.

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!"

1 comment:

Maddy said...

I'm not good at names but I'll try and remember that one. There again, if all indicators are correct, it sounds as if he'll make enough waves to even reach these remote shores.