BOSTON, MA – This week, Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) was named Legislator of the Year by Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM), a consortium of 15 member organizations, including Autism Speaks, Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation, and The ARC, from across the Commonwealth that represent the diversity of the autism spectrum. The award, presented by AFAM Board Chairman Michael Borr at a virtual meeting, was given to Senator O’Connor for his continued dedication to supporting those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In presenting the award to Senator O’Connor, Borr thanked O’Connor for his “exceptional work on behalf of individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
“Thank you for your dedicated advocacy and leadership in the passage of Nicky and Dana’s Law,” Borr continued. “This monumental legislation would not have been possible without your contributions in the Senate. We also thank you for your support around our budget priorities, your co-sponsorship of many of our priority bills, and, most recently, your work to protect services for our community during COVID-19.”
“This award means a lot to me and I dedicate it to everyone who paved the path to where we are now in understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder, said Senator O’Connor. “The people who advocated for inclusion, fought for coverage, and educated their neighbors, friends, community, and our Commonwealth on the challenges and uniqueness associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
Upon learning the news, Danielle Graziano of Weymouth, a community advocate and mother of two children on the autism spectrum, said, “I walked into Senator O’Connor’s office four years ago after having my two kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder… I immediately felt like I was with friends and people that understood us and our situation. Since then, I feel like Senator O’Connor and his staff have been friends to us. Shortly after that meeting, I invited [Sen. O’Connor] to the Weymouth Special Olympics and he hasn’t missed one since. He always makes sure to come over and say hi to the kids and he takes the time to connect with them.”
“It’s up to us to look out for each other,” added O’Connor. “That’s a core function of society and government, and the work we have done in this space is a really great example of how we can work together and build consensus, with the ultimate goal of looking out for each other.”
Since 2004, AFAM, a grassroots organization of self-advocates, families and concerned citizens, has served as the primary advocacy vehicle protecting the rights and needs of individuals with ASD and their families. AFAM advocates year-round on legislation and budgetary proposals affecting people with ASD and their families, and also sponsors an annuals Autism Advocacy Day at the Massachusetts State House. To learn more about AFAM, visit www.afamaction.org.
Senator Patrick O’Connor represents the Plymouth and Norfolk district, which includes the towns of Cohasset, Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, and Weymouth. Sen. O’Connor and his staff may be reached at the State House at 617-722-1646 or by email at Patrick.O’[email protected].