Today’s Autism Light is a young man with autism who interacted with candidates with aspirations of being the next President of the United States. Sam Wessels is from Rock Rapids, Iowa. Sam is 10 years old and has autism. During this year’s Iowa Caucus he visited different political town hall meetings with his mother and was able to ask questions on autism of 7 of the 9 candidates who have vied for the Republican Presidential Nomination over the course of the campaign, including two who suspended their campaigns prior to the Iowa Caucus. Sam Wessels is an Autism Light for his autism advocacy that resulted in keeping the issue of autism alive on the campaign trail in Iowa.
Lin Wessels (Sam’s Mother) said that, “Sam’s out there speaking for kids that have no voice. He’s giving a voice to the voiceless (Source).” Here is a video on YouTube where Sam Wessels talks with his mother about why he decided to ask questions of the Presidential Candidates in the Iowa Caucus in 2012.
Sam Wessels was able to ask the question “What Will You Do For Autism?” to Presidential Candidates Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum (you can listen to the responses on YouTube at the links next to each candidate’s name). The Iowa Caucus was held on January 3, 2012. In a closely contested race the certified results showed that Sen. Rick Santorum had 34 more votes than any other candidate in the Iowa Caucus (Source).
His mother Lin Wessels explains on her Facebook page about how they went about trying to ask questions at various campaign meetings.
…it is no easy feat to first attend any political event with a child with autism in tow, let alone hitting the campaign trail. We have had to drive substantial distances. It takes a good deal of preparation. We try very hard to get there a fair bit in advance to ensure we can get optimal seating. A lot of waiting is involved. It is often crowded, sometimes even overflowing. There is no guarantee of who will get picked to ask a question, if any are even taken. It is a crap shoot. If you are called on, you had best be precise and calculating in your question and even then, a real and true response is rare. BUT, when your child with autism does get called on and NAILS IT, it is exhilarating!! To see him (or her) learning to advocate for himself and others, teaching them about the political process while bestowing in them a sense of something bigger than oneself, it makes me proud beyond measure (United States of Autism (Source). For more information on the United States of Autism project see the post when it’s Director and Producer Richard Everts was named Autism Light #29.
2008 Campaign Advocacy: Sam Wessels also gave a presentation on autism to politicians in the 2008 Election season, which included Sen. John McCain. Because of this Lin Wessels was asked to meet with Sen. John McCain in Washington DC about autism advocacy (Source). Pictures of Sam Wessel’s political advocacy are available on Lin Wessel’s “Our Political Advocacy” YouTube
Special thanks to Sam Wessels for speaking up for those with autism who do not have a voice by asking important questions of the Republican Candidates for President when they were in Iowa for the Iowa Caucus. It is an inspiration to see a young man with autism who is involved in the political process. We also acknowledge the valuable contribution of Sam’s mother Lin Wessels who has helped provide the opportunity for Sam to be involved in self-advocacy.
Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.
Photo: The photo in this post is used with permission of Lin Wessels.