Outstanding Advocate of the Year
By Amy Goodman
Co-Director, Autism NOW Center
It started out as any ordinary day, but around 11:00 a.m., I received a call from Jennifer of the Autism Society of America. She was calling to inform me that I was selected as the recipient of the “Outstanding Advocate of the Year” award, and that this award was to be presented to me on July 12th at the Autism Society’s annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After I got off the phone with her, my head was spinning and my heart rate had gone up. I needed to calm my nerves because I was starting to display some of my autism characteristics, most of which are not appropriate in the work environment. My whole entire body was all jittery and I was having trouble containing my excitement. I felt like I would explode if I didn’t tell someone and quick! I first told my supervisor and a few colleagues that work in the open hallway outside my office door. Fortunately, the news came just in time for our staff meeting and I was able to make an announcement to The Arc’s entire staff.
I let all my friends and family know about it through Facebook and Twitter. The Arc and Autism NOW made many announcements about it through their social media channels for the next two weeks. On July 9th, 2013, I finally took my flight to Pittsburgh to attend the conference and receive my award. It was presented to me in the general session that Friday around 9:45 a.m. I walked up on the stage, shook the presenter’s hand, and stepped up to the podium to thank everyone that made a difference in my life.
I started with my father, who is no longer with me, because I always wanted him to see me get my first award. I also thanked important individuals in my life that not only helped me to get to this point, but influenced, encouraged and showed me the way or pointed me in the right direction. I ended with why I do what I do – why I spend four hours a day or more commuting to my job and the answer is simply because I do what I love. I am just happy to have a job that suits my unique needs and is a perfect fit for me.
This award is not only for me personally but to be shared with all my colleagues at The Arc, my friends and colleagues at The Autism Society of America, and Robert Hunter of The Grateful Dead for enabling my brother to make a connection with Kent Moreno, who told us about Asperger’s syndrome in the first place. Also, all my friends and colleagues at Marshall University and the College Support program because if it were not for all their support and encouragement, I would not be where I am today. I owe it all to them.
This is an award that means a lot to me because it is proof that all my hard work and dedication to my profession has paid off, and that individuals do appreciate me. That what I do makes a difference in the lives of individuals with autism. That I am able to share my life with those in need, and I feel proud to be able to say I’m an individual with autism who has paved the way for others to enjoy life to the fullest extent.
I may not move mountains by myself, but I can advocate and give others a voice they may not know they even have. This award has validated my life for me and I now know I am where I need to be and that I will survive in this world. It has given me a sense of self-worth and the confidence to know I can achieve or accomplish things above and beyond what others said I would never do.