In this episode of CONNECTED with Mika Bradford we’re discussing:
In this episode Mika interviews Shelley Hendrix-McLaughlin, a mother, business professional and autism advocate.
Shelley shares her story of how Liam, her son, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two in 1998, then being told his future looked bleak at best. Since that diagnosis, Shelley has become a leader in the autism community, organizing grassroots rallies across the country and teaching autism community members how to get involved in positive policy change. Hear Liams story of victory in overcoming significant odds, how he graduated high school, became and Eagle Scout and ultimately secured employment and has worked for McDonalds since 2012 and is saving his money to open his own bakery one day.
Shelley served as the National Director of Grassroots Development for Autism Speaks for 9 years, Shelley directed grassroots engagement and strategy, contributing to the passage of over 90 laws in 46 states to help people with autism access medically necessary healthcare treatments, as well as services to improve independent living opportunities. Since 2005, working with Autism Speaks and other organizations, Shelley assisted in passing six federal laws which secured over $6 Billion in research funding, created an Autism Research Program within the United States Department of Defense and established of a mechanism allowing parents to save money for their child’s adult expenditures in tax-free savings accounts.
Since the program’s inception in 2007, Shelley has served as a consumer member of the Integrative Panel for the U.S. Department of Defense Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Program for Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. This program funds and develops innovative strategies in autism research with a vision goal of helping people impacted with autism now. Over $90 Million in research grants have been funded through this program to date.
Prior to her work with Autism Speaks, Shelley founded Unlocking Autism in February 1999. This internationally recognized organization seeks to develop local solutions for families living with ASD that feed up into a national strategy. The innovation of Unlocking Autism, and ability to move quickly especially in crisis situations, has set this organization apart.
In 2015, Shelley founded Different Beat Consultants, which concentrates on building strategies to address the autism epidemic by connecting products, government entities and families living with autism. DBC is working to address multiple systemic societal issues ranging from improving physical and mental health of those living with ASD, to accessing early intervention services, adult housing and transition services and job training in new and innovative ways. One of DBC’s primary goals is to find a way to bring solutions to the community in the most efficacious and cost effective manner possible and has focused efforts on the poorest states in our country with the least resources.
In 2005, Spectrum Publications named Shelley “Person of the Year” for her work within the national autism community and in 2006 she was named one of the Top 10 Faces of Autism by the same publication. Shelley graduated from McKinley High School then pursued a Bachelors of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA with a double major in political science and art history. She is the mother of Liam and Mairin Reynolds who both equally fuel her passions to make the world a better place for those who live with ASD.
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