How to Advocate with Your
Without Traveling to Washington
You can and should
look for opportunities to let your Members of Congress know
that you and other families living with special needs or
issues are their constituents and would like them to be
responsive to your needs. Members of
Congress will be in the district for a few days leading
up to the Columbus Day holiday, and this is a great time for
them to hear from you! This document provides a quick tutorial
on how to do that where you live.
Members of Congress
Each family has a
U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators representing them in
the U.S. Congress. If you don't know who your Members of
Congress are, one resource is the internet or World Wide Web.
There are two Web sites that can help you figure out who
represents you in Congress:
The same sites
should allow you to go to the Web sites of your Members of
Congress. There you will find contact information for the
local office closest to you. If that information is not
listed, use the contact information for the Washington office
to ask for local addresses and phone numbers.
If you do not have
access to the internet, look in the government pages of your
local telephone directory in the section on federal
Once you know who
your Member is and how to reach them, call the office and ask
to speak to the scheduler. Many times the person who
schedules the Member's time will ask you to provide a request
in writing, but call first to see if that is necessary, and,
if it is, where to direct your request.
Your request could
be along the following lines:
Hi, my name is
_____ and I live in _____. I'd like the opportunity to talk
with Representative/Senator _____
or a member of their staff during the October Recess. Can you
help me schedule something? Our
family is living with autism, and we have a very strong
interest in what Congress is doing to make sure that _____
(state your issue - for example: you might say "we have a
strong interest in what Congress is doing to make sure that
autism research is strong and that there are enough services
available for people with autism.")
being able to talk with the Congressman/Senator for just 5 or
10 minutes about my concerns. Can
you tell me when he/she will be in town next and when I could
schedule a meeting?
Keep in mind that
the Members of Congress do keep very aggressive schedules, so
you may be asked to meet with a staff person instead or to
attend a local town hall meeting or other public venue where
the Member of Congress will be. These can be very valuable
experiences, so don't be discouraged if this is what you hear
from the Member's scheduling staff.
What to Say
If you have a
meeting or see the Member at an event, keep your message
concise and brief, but don't be nervous about talking to
them. You are the constituent, and they want to hear from
Tell him/her who
you are, where you are from, and what your personal experience
is with the issue - why you care.
Ask him/her to show
their support for your issue by doing something specific
(supporting a bill, joining a caucus, or another action).
Thank him/her for
their time and attention.
Ask if there is a
staff person you could follow-up with. Let them know you will
be checking back.
Then, Follow UP! with a letter to ask what progress has taken