Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Trip to the United Nations in New York City for WAAD

Flags Lined the U.N.
On Tuesday, April 3rd I had the privilege of going to World Autism Awareness Day at the United Nations in New York City.  The invitation was sent to me the week before so it was a scramble to make it happen.  With the help of my in-laws and major juggling of the schedule, I accepted the invitation from Autism Speaks to attend the event. 

Our Group After the Discussion
The event took place 4-6pm so we had plenty of time to get into the city.  Fortunately through Autism Speaks I have met a fantastic group of women and men.  I have known most of them for years so we all went together in a van.  The conversations are easy because we all have something in common...autism. 

When we arrived at the U.N. we went through security and took a look around.  We saw huge, beautiful tapestries and many artifacts from all over the world.  Fascinating.  I had my camera in my right hand and on the entire time, ready to get a good shot when I missed a great shot!  As I was waiting to walk into the room where the discussion was to take place, Toni Braxton came out with her two sons.  She was beautiful.  She smiled and quietly waved to us then continued down the hall.  Before it even occurred to me that it was her I smiled and waved back then realized my camera was in my hand.  Oh well.

There were 6 colorful stamps on tripods out for display.  It was a beautiful thing to see the creator of each stamp stand next to the picture with his/her family.  Each stamp was created by someone on the spectrum;  you could see the pride in creating the stamps. 

We heard from Mr. A.K.Abdul Momen, PH.D., Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the U.N., Mr. Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, State of Qatar, Sheikh Meshal Hamad M.J. Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the U.N. and Mrs. Susanne Wright and Mr. Bob Wright, Co-founders of Autism Speaks.  All the pictures are on the GJOP fan page

Next up was the panel discussion moderated by Christiane Amanpour, Global Affairs Anchor - ABC News Host, "Amanpour" - CNN International.  On the panel were Ms. Geraldine Dawson, PH.D., Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks, Mr. Shekhar Saxena, M.D., Director, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization, Ms. Saima Wazed Hossain, Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh, Ms. Toni Braxton, Parent Advocate, Mr. Michael John Carley, Executive Director of both the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership Inc. (GRASP). 

After the panel discussion was over it was open to the floor for questions.  This is when it hit me how fortunate we are as Americans.  A young mom opened my eyes.  She was from South Korea where the rates for autism are 1 out of every 38 children.  Her concern was lack of therapies.  Can you imagine if your child has never had any ABA therapy?  She said there weren't any types of therapies where she lived.  Then she asked why and when could she expect them and what to do in the mean time with her child.  You felt it, the need to help her son but she was all alone.  Then there was a man from France who had a child on the spectrum who was having difficulty getting his daughter into any type of therapy also do to so many children and so little therapists.  My heart went out to them.  Was I being selfish having my son in speech, OT, a socialization program, and swim therapies?  I have the luxury of calling his DIR therapist and going at any time if there is a major problem.  I have the opportunity to be in a support group 2x a month if I need some guidance.  It was suggested that she could go on-line and learn how to apply ABA therapy herself.  A great option considering she doesn't have any therapists around her but still, we don't know her situation.  Was she a single mom who needs to have that full-time job? When would she have time to do this?  So many questions.

Then someone else asked questions about transitioning into adulthood.  I did not know that our children can be on our insurance until the age of 26.  There has been progress in helping to prepare and find jobs for our children but there is still much work to do on housing.  Trying to get away from group home settings and who will pay for our adult ASD children when we are gone.  With so many children transitioning now, this is a huge concern.  The two hours flew by so fast.  Then suddenly, it was over. 

At the Bangladesh Building
We were then invited to attend a reception at the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United States a few blocks away.  Of course we went!  Had to check it out.  They had tables filled with food and many people went.  It was a packed house. 

Of course we couldn't leave NYC without one last tourist view.  We tried to go see the new Freedom Tower but it is still heavily guarded so our driver took us to see the Statue of Liberty at night.  When we pulled up there were rows of blue lights.  Yes.  NYC Lights it up Blue!!  This was the last picture I took  of the night.  I hope to be back to NYC soon.

NYC at Night

1 comment:

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