The Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia) reports:
When other kids stayed home from school during a snow day last month, Robert Maino headed with his mother to the halls of the General Assembly.
The debate around the autism bill fascinated him, so his mother encouraged him to write a letter thanking the bill's supporters.
He took it a step further, writing to both those who supported and those who voted against the bill requiring insurance companies to cover a form of autism treatment. Maino, an 18-year-old from Mechanicsville and an upcoming Christopher Newport University freshman, has Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism.
His letter captured the attention of legislators, who invited him to speak.
His story about his struggles and how early intervention paid off helped put a face on the bill, which supporters spent four years trying to get passed.
"They hadn't heard from somebody who lived it," said Marybeth Maino, Robert's mother.
After the bill passed, he wrote the legislators:
I want to extend my sincerest thanks for your support of the Autism Insurance Reform Bill. I am a 17 year old that has been living with Autism my whole life and I know from personal experience that early intervention is one of the most vital steps in a child's life with autism. Because of my parents, I have been fortunate enough to receive such treatment from an early age and have gone through countless therapies and behavioral counselors to get to where I am today. Because my parents took the personal burden of having to give up so much of their livelihood to give me this blessing, I am now an independent advocate of autism awareness and I spend a good portion of my time volunteering and working to help assist children like myself. Without this intervention on my parent's part, I would most likely not be graduating high school. Instead, I will be graduating high school in June and have been accepted into the President's Leadership Program at Christopher Newport University. I sincerely believe that this bill, once put into action, will make a difference for all those children that don't have it as well off as I did, and make their lives and those that care for them much easier.