ARC is Aiming to Provide Self-Advocacy for Autism in the Political Process

By KBJR News 1

February 9, 2012 Updated Feb 9, 2012 at 10:25 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northlands NewsCenter)
-- The Center of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 110 American's are born with some type of autism.

In the Northland, one advocacy group is attempting to ensure that people with autism and other disabilities have a voice in the political process.

Lars Kuehnow used to make his living owning several gas stations in the Northland.

"I enjoyed being in business very much. I liked it a lot"

But even with the success of his business, there was something in the back of Kuehnow's thoughts.

His son Dane who was diagnosed with autism at the age of five.

After attending conferences and talking with other parents about autism, he sold his stores and become an advocate for autism.

"I hoped that somehow I could do that...to help and so I got involved with ARC"

The non-profit serves men and women with disabilities, the largest of its kind in the U-S.

In Duluth, the newest project is breaking down the barriers to get Duluth students with autism and other disabilities involved with self-advocacy in the political process.

It started with meeting Duluth Mayor Don Ness.

"They are citizens of our country.They are citizens of our community and they have just as much of a voice as everybody"

Members of ARC say that without a voice, the people they serve will be forgotten.

"A lot of times we'll see when times get tough financially...people with disabilities are impacted significantly more then people without with budget cuts"

"Whenever the state has a challenge, from a budget prospective people with disabilities are generally at the top to take the hit"

Organizers hope the exposure to politics will give young people diagnosed with autism the confidence to stand up for themselves and make change.

Students involved with the ARC project will be meeting with local lawmakers over the next few months.

They will also be heading down to St. Paul at the beginning of May to sit in a legislative session.

Zach Vavricka

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