Autism Votes is the Advocacy initiative of Autism Speaks. Our focus is two-fold:
1) Maximizing support and funding for autism research, surveillance, awareness and services
2) Working in state capitals, Congress and the courts for autism insurance reform that maximizes coverage for evidence-based treatments including behavioral health treatments
Many of the members of the Autism Votes team are parents of a child with autism.
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The Autism Speaks Advocacy Team
Stuart Spielman, Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel
Responsible for managing federal government affairs, Stuart advocates on Capitol Hill and before federal agencies for research and services that can improve the lives of children and adults on the autism spectrum.
As a volunteer in the late 1990’s, Stuart championed several state-based initiatives, including the nation’s first Medicaid home- and community-based services waiver for children with autism. Stuart’s most recent efforts have principally been in the federal arena. He has worked on the Children’s Health Act of 2000, the Combating Autism Act of 2006, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011, and their successor 2014 reauthorization law, Autism CARES, and other significant legislation.
Stuart began working for Autism Speaks in January 2008. He holds a juris doctor degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Law and a master in laws in taxation from the New York University School of Law. He and his wife Mona are the parents of two teenage boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.
Angela Lello, Director of Housing and Community Living
A policy expert in Medicaid and longterm care and the mother of a child with autism, Angela is Autism Speaks' first Director of Housing and Community Living. The position was created in response to the rapid growth of individuals with autism "aging out" of school-based services into adulthood and the lack of services that await them.
She is responsible for developing and implementing housing and community living policies and programs by working with federal, state, and local governments, individuals with autism and their families, and other stakeholder groups to ensure a diverse range of housing and support options for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Angela served previously as Senior Analyst for the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. She began her career as a policy advocate at an Independent Living Center in Austin, Texas then conducted policy analysis for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.
Lorri Unumb, Esq., Vice President for State Government Affairs
Lorri began her work in autism advocacy as a volunteer. In 2005, she wrote ground-breaking autism insurance legislation for South Carolina (“Ryan’s Law,” named after her oldest child) that passed in 2007 and served as a catalyst for the national movement toward autism insurance reform. Lorri joined Autism Speaks in September 2008 as Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel and since that time has worked to enact autism insurance legislation across the country.
Lorri has been recognized with the Jefferson Award for Public Service; the Autism Society of America 2008 “Parents of the Year” award (along with her husband Dan); and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s Michael Hemingway Award. Her work has been profiled on CNN, on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and in Town & Country magazine, which named her one of three 2009 “Women Who Make a Difference.”
Prior to joining Autism Speaks, Lorri enjoyed a fulfilling career as a litigator and law professor: as a federal law clerk, an Honor Program attorney with the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice, a full-time professor at George Washington University Law School, an inaugural faculty member at the Charleston School of Law, and finally as Associate Director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center.
Lorri lives in South Carolina with her husband Dan and three sons, Ryan (who has autism), Christopher; and Jonathan.
Judith Ursitti, Director, State Government Affairs
Judith has over a decade of experience in tax accounting, but became heavily involved in autism advocacy when her son Jack was diagnosed with autism in 2005. Since that time, she has participated in the passage of autism insurance reform legislation in more than a dozen states, testifying at numerous hearings and working with stakeholders and legislators across the country.
Before joining the Autism Speaks government relations team, she volunteered as advocacy chair for the organization’s New England and North Texas chapters, chaired the inaugural Dallas Fort Worth Walk Now for Autism Speaks and served as a member of the Parent Advisory Council for Autism Speaks 100-Day Kit. Judith was awarded the Margaret L. Bauman, M.D. Award for Excellence within the Autism Community in 2009.
Judith holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Georgia College and State University and is a Certified Public Accountant. She and her husband Andy live in Dover, Massachusetts and are parents to two children, Amy and Jack.
Mike Wasmer, Director, State Government Affairs
Mike brings over 10 years’ experience in autism advocacy and government relations to Autism Speaks. Since 2002, he has served as an appointed member of the Kansas Governor’s Commission on Autism. In 2006, Mike founded the Kansas Coalition for Autism Legislation (KCAL) and grew its membership to over 1,500 advocates. KCAL was the driving force behind legislation that created the Kansas Autism Task Force (where Mike chaired the subcommittee on Insurance) and passage of HB 2160, which required coverage for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for Kansas state employees.
Since joining Autism Speaks in 2011, Mike helped lead the passage of autism insurance reform laws in Utah, Kansas and Nebraska, successfully advocated for the addition of meaningful autism coverage in several self-funded health benefit plans and created the Autism Speaks Insurance Link - an online tool to help families determine whether their policies provide coverage for ABA.
Mike holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Loyola University, Maryland and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from The Ohio State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. He also completed a veterinary internal medicine residency at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Mike is the father of two children including a teenager with autism.
Charles Dulaney, Esq., Legal and Compliance Administrator
Charles joined the Autism Speaks Government Relations team to oversee the team’s contractual relationships with state lobbyists across the country and to insure compliance with state ethics laws. Before joining Autism Speaks, Charles was in private practice as an attorney focused on the representation of individuals with special needs under federal and state law.
Charles is a graduate of the Universty of Mississippi and the Charleston School of Law, where he served as a Legal Writing Teaching Fellow, Administrative Editor of the Federal Courts Law Review and as a member of the Moot Court Board. Charles lives in South Carolina where he works from the Autism Speaks State Government Affairs Office in Lexington.
Shelley Hendrix, Director, Grassroots Development
Shelley’s son, Liam, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two in 1998. Since that diagnosis, Shelley has become a leader in the autism community, organizing political rallies across the country and teaching parents how to get involved in government activity. She began working at Autism Speaks in September of 2007.
Shelley has served on an advisory panel with the U.S. Department of Defense Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Program for Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs since the program's inception in 2007. This program works to fund and develop innovative strategies in autism research with a goal of helping people impacted with autism.
In 2005, Spectrum Publications named Shelley “Person of the Year” for her work within the autism community and in 2006 she was named one of the Top 10 Faces of Autism. She graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA with a double major in political science and art history.