WASHINGTON, D.C. September 30, 2011 – Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright today joined President Obama at a White House ceremony where the President signed crucial legislation renewing the landmark Combating Autism Act for another three years.
“Autism Speaks thanks President Obama and our Congressional leaders for telling the millions of families who deal with autism every day that America will not quit on them,” said Bob Wright. “We have come far since the historic Combating Autism Act was enacted in 2006, but we still have further to go to find answers. With autism rising at an alarming rate, America cannot afford to stand still.”
The Wrights were invited to the White House ceremony along with Autism Speaks Board Member Billy Mann and his wife Gena and son Jasper.
Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) in the House of Representatives and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the Senate, HR. 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 continues the federal commitment for autism research, services and treatment at current levels, authorizing $693 million over the next three years. The original act provided $945 million over five years.
Since the 2006 act became law, the prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in 110, including 1 in 70 boys, prompting the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to call autism a public health emergency. Estimates of the annual cost of autism to the nation have ranged as high as $90 billion. Critical research now underway has made significant advances in determining potential causes for the developmental disorder as well as advancing promising new early intervention behavioral treatments.
The bill cleared the Senate Monday night after lawmakers agreed that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) will examine the use of federal funding for autism research. Autism Speaks has long supported such oversight to ensure that scarce federal resources are put to their best use in research.
“Our success in no small part was made possible by the tens of thousands of grassroots advocates who insisted that Congress hear their voices,” said Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr. “Congress listened.”
Other national advocacy organizations that worked closely in winning passage of the bill included the Autism Society of America, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Easter Seals, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.