State support for Tailor Institute -- crucial for success -- has been good

Friday, February 10, 2006

A bit more than four years ago I took an idea I had refined over the previous decade and presented it to every legislator in the Southeast Missouri delegation. I described a new approach to serving specific individuals with autism, a concept that held the promise of significantly improving many people's lives. Our legislators were receptive, interested and intrigued by a fresh way of looking at a difficult problem. My project seemed to be well on its way.

My family's ancient copy of Webster's dictionary defines patience as "the act or quality of waiting long for expected good, without discontent; forbearance." My colleagues and I had no idea exactly how much forbearance was to be required of us. We soon learned that identifying a problem, demonstrating a need and presenting a well-thought-out solution to the problem was merely the beginning of the process of obtaining government resources.

That same copy of Webster's defines persistence as "the steady pursuit of what is undertaken." For me, the human embodiment of that term is state Sen. Jason Crowell. His unswerving persistence in championing this project at all levels of state government has been humbling to watch over the last four years.

Senator Crowell is passionate about helping families deal with autism, and he understands that the work of the Tailor Institute will ultimately benefit many individuals and families, profoundly improving the lives of numerous individuals with autism. He is an unsung hero to many.

The broad support of our other legislators was essential to the success of this initiative. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, state Rep. Rod Jetton, state Sen. Rob Mayer and state Rep. Scott Lipke all took a keen interest in the project and provided substantial input at critical times.

Early on in the process, Senator Crowell explained to me his firm belief that a project such as this "isn't a Republican or Democratic issue. It's everyone's issue." This was borne out by the advice and encouragement the Tailor Institute received over the years from former Secretary of State Bekki Cook.

Autism is an extraordinary puzzle, a condition that poses many yet-unanswered questions to the medical community. Some of these questions will be scrutinized by the Tailor Institute in ways they have never been looked at before. People with autism exhibit wide ranges of ability and disability, all linked by specific, common characteristics. One of the mysteries of autism is that within the population of people with autism there are some individuals who, though they remain significantly impaired by their autism, display surprising areas of giftedness. No one knows why.

The Tailor Institute is deeply grateful for the support it is receiving from the state of Missouri. The work ahead of us will be difficult, challenging and, I'm certain, meaningful. I'm also certain that the terms "patience" and "persistence" will continue to see significant usage as we move forward. These are exciting times.

David Crowe is a Cape Girardeau orthodontist who has an autistic son and has long been an advocate for resources for autistic children and their parents.

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