I grew up in a family with three sisters; I was the only boy. When I was very little, I often wished I had a big brother. I always imagined this bigger brother would stand up for me and defend me from the other kids in my life who bullied me. As time grew on, this position was filled by my older sister who stood up for me when I was in school. As I got to be older, I had various friends and my parents who stood up for me as well. All my life I have been used to other people speaking up for me instead of doing it myself.
President Trump recently released his budget proposal. The President’s budget cuts Medicaid by $1.4 trillion over 10 years. It also reduces Supplemental Security Income (SSI) spending. Both Medicaid and SSI are important programs to people like me on the autism spectrum. Medicaid is more than just a health plan; it provides home and community services that can help autistic people live independently in the community. The cuts to Medicaid proposed in the President’s budget will lead to unacceptable reductions in services to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Medicaid benefits like home and community services are optional, meaning states do not have to cover them. If Congress passes the President’s Medicaid cuts, many states may choose to stop covering these optional services, which will put disabled people at risk of losing these services.
SSI is also an important tool because it provides cash assistance to disabled people, and elderly people living below the poverty line, and can be used for rent, food, utilities and other expenses. Receiving SSI qualifies disabled people for Medicaid in most states. It is important to protect SSI funding because it is linked to Medicaid coverage.
President Trump’s budget contains cuts to these critical programs that help autistic people live independently. In light of these cuts, who will speak up for me and other people on the spectrum? I’ve come to realize that the time has come for me to become my own self-advocate and speak up for myself. In my capacity as an American citizen, I’ve been writing emails to my Congressman and Senators about why Medicaid and SSI are such important programs for autistic people like me. Becoming my own self-advocate and a disability rights activist will help bring public attention to the fact that Trump’s proposed budget cuts will hurt people with autism. The more public attention we bring to the President’s budget, the greater chance we have of swaying Congress to oppose, or at least reduce, the amount of cuts proposed.
As a self-advocate, I am not planning on reducing my pressure on Congress anytime soon. I want them to know that disability services need to be protected and fully funded. I believe the deep cuts proposed in the President’s budget to Medicaid are unacceptable and must not be allowed to pass. I am very encouraged now, because standing up for myself now means my voice will be heard, and that my opinions as an American matter. I would encourage every autistic person and neurotypical ally to find their voices as well, and stand up for disability rights.