Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Letter to Sarah Palin, from Another Pit Bull with Lipstick

Dear Sarah,

When you said, and I am paraphrasing, “the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick,” I had much the same reaction as Jon Stewart from The Daily Show, which was “I love this woman!” And by now you know that you have the rapt attention of every parent of a child with a disability in America, because you looked straight into the camera and promised, if elected, to be our friend and advocate in The White House.

You are hard not to like, Sarah, but I just wanted you to know, if you do not already, that every mom of a child with a disability, at one time or another becomes “a pit bull with lipstick.” The pit bull instincts come out when you fight with an insurance company for coverage for speech therapy, OT, PT or ABA. The pit bull instincts appear when a neurologist or psychiatrist tells you that heavy medication is the only answer for your child, so just accept it. The pit bull instinct erupts at IEP meetings or when your child is bullied at the playground because he is different.

Jenny McCarthy’s new book is tentatively entitled Mother Warriors and all of us with special needs children can relate to that title. Jenny McCarthy, love her or hate her, is definitely a pit bull with lipstick (and great hair, and a fashion stylist!). You don’t really have a choice as a special needs mom, you just don the armor along with your makeup each day.

Your sweet baby boy Trig is only 4 months old, so you may not have experienced all of these moments yet, but you will. You might be somewhat protected by your personal wealth and celebrity from some of these issues, although those very things could make it harder for you and your family too. But you will be fine in the end. We already know you are a fighter, and for that reason, your son is incredibly lucky.

A lot of us who have children with autism have friends who have children with Down Syndrome. We are combat buddies, who spent hours together in waiting rooms at therapy centers or working side by side with our children and their therapists. We know what you and Trig are facing and the level of early intervention that is required, so you have a knowledgeable and sympathetic constituency in the Mother (and Father!) warriors of the world.

But you have to know, Sarah, that we pit bulls don’t take promises lightly. We want to know specifics about the McCain-Palin platform for special needs. The Professor and I are decidedly democrat, yet we would listen to you on this topic, if you could make a persuasive case. This article in The New York Times today was not encouraging. But I know your record on special needs legislation as governor comes prior to the birth of your son, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. I won’t hold you to the past, but I do want more than a promise for the future.

So come on Sarah, you threw us the bone (pun fully intended!), now deliver.

Your fellow pit bulls in make-up are listening.


GFCF Mommy

P.S. I just read in another New York Times article that your nephew has autism. Which makes it a little hard to understand your decision to cut Alaska's special education budget. But you have the chance to make up for it now on a larger scale. Still, we'd like some thoughtful answers and the chance for some discussion.

(Note to readers: for updates on the candidates’ platforms on disability issues, see Autism Votes.)

(Photo courtesy of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.)


Anonymous said...

First, let me say that I love your blog and read it all the time.
Already being a democrat, I'm sure you know that Obama has laid out an autism-specific plan on his website.
I also got a little excited at Palin's promise, but I cannot find a specific plan laid out anywhere, unlike Obama.

GFCF Mommy said...

Which is kind of my point. If she is going to come out and make such a bold statement that she will be "our friend in the White House", I'd like to see her back it up with some substance. Maybe she and McCain have some specific plan, I just haven't seen it yet.

Obama's plan and some of McCain's ideas are laid out in the Autism Votes link I mentioned. I'd like to hear more from him, I know one of his chief campaign advisors has a child with autism.

If they are really interested in our votes, I'd love to see some news person throw out questions of concern to us and see what they say. Wouldn't that be great?!

It is an exciting election, no matter which side you are on, to actually have special needs mentioned in a high profile way is truly a wonderful thing!

Thank you for your kind words about my blog too. I really appreciate it!


Cyndi said...

I feel the same way you do, but was saddened to read on Age of Autism today that Obama said he does NOT support selective vaccination...well, that just might be enough to make me cross party lines!

J said...

Thought you might be interested in viewing these two sides. If you've checked out gfcfmomma's blog lately, I'm kind of in the same boat as her. I really like what Palin said but everything is blurry right now as there is a lot of critizing going on from each party. Anyways these two sites say that while she made the cuts, she actually increased funding by starting new programs.

Whatever the case is, I just hope that if she is elected, she keeps her promise.

GFCF Mommy said...

Thanks, J. In the interest of sharing even more information, my Dad sent me this link from Newsweek
which says pretty much the same thing as the sites you list.

Apparently, while technically true that Palin cut the budget, it was really just an accounting measure, moving something with a big ticket to its own line item.

Nevertheless, I'd like to hear all this and a disability platform from McCain-Palin.

I hope she will clear all this up in some public forum.


Debbie said...

I understand your point. I think it would be fantastic to have a parent who gets it in the White House, but unfortunately I don't see any substance behind these claims. I feel like Trig is being used as a bit of prop to tug at Americans' heartstrings to get them elected...and it's working!
I just don't think these candidates are the ones who are going to make positive changes in special education, funding for testing and cures, etc. I hate feeling so cynical, but it is hard for me to trust that her message is heartfelt and honest. But at least this has people talking. Awareness is good!

Thomas Dzomba said...

Hi Katherine,

Let's not forget we dads don't wear lipstick, but we can be pitbulls too. :-)

I always find it hard to discuss politics, because it is so devisive, especially this year. I know who I am voting for, and I hope that person addresses the needs of special needs children and their families. I also know that words in speeches and plans are just that, words. Just because someone promises something doesn't mean it will happen.

Hopefully, whoever gets elected will truly have special needs at the forefront of their agenda.

Bob in Boulder said...

Palin showed her true colors in Colorado about a week and a half ago. We have an amendment to raise funding for much needed care for all special needs individuals in the state. The wait list for services averages 12 years currently. The amendment (51) is even being endorsed by our ex-governor's wife, a Republican. Palin, when asked while here, said she supported a No vote on the amendment, saying that funds would somehow magically come from somewhere else. She is as two-faced as they come.