WASHINGTON, DC (March 27, 2014) -- Members of the U.S. Senate today issued the following statements in response to the new autism prevalence numbers issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Statements from House members are here; state leaders here.)
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
(Senate sponsor of the 2011 Combating Autism Reauthorization Act)
“This newly released data should serve as a clarion call to not just continue – but to increase – our efforts on the federal level into research and services and supports for individuals with autism and their families. We must pass our Combating Autism Reauthorization which is the only way to ensure critical autism programs aren’t shuttered, leaving individuals with autism and their families wondering what could have been -- what new diagnostic tools, early intervention techniques, therapies and lifelong supports and services could have been discovered to improve lives and ensure individuals with autism can fulfill their God-given potential.“
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)
(A critical early cosponsor of the 2011 Combating Autism Reauthorization Act and the ABLE Act)
“Today’s news on the prevalence of autism is substantially worse than we ever thought. Children and adults with autism face enormous daily challenges, and it is important that we do what we can to support these individuals and their families as they deal with the day-to-day struggles presented by autism spectrum disorders. That’s why Senator (Robert) Casey and I introduced the ABLE Act. It would allow families to use a 529 college savings account to save for ‘disability expenses’ – such as housing, education and medical expenses -- for a disabled child, including children living with autism.”
Senator Robert Casey (D-PA)
(Lead Senate sponsor of the ABLE Act which would create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities)
"These alarming statistics underscore the need to address the long term needs of families caring for those with autism. Parents of children with disabilities face daily struggles that we can’t even begin to imagine. The ABLE Act will provide families with the financial peace of mind they need, and Congress should pass it immediately.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
(Senate champion of improved care for military kids with autism under TRICARE)
“The rate in which autism is increasing is alarming,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “It is vital that we make investments in new research that will benefit the lives of millions. We know that early intervention is one of the best ways to ensure a child’s long term success, but thousands of families simply cannot afford the cost of treatment and programs needed to help those with autism. I will continue to push for legislation that will help provide essential services, treatment and support for families.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
(Early and consistent champion of major autism legislative initiatives)
“Autism awareness and research is a cause that has long been near and dear to my heart. In fact, it’s the last issue I worked on in the closing hours of my service in the Florida Legislature and I remain supportive of those struggling with the disorder. In the midst of the CDC’s latest prevalence report showing a dramatic increase in the number of families affected by autism, we are reminded of why this issue needs greater attention. At a time when the only commonality in Washington seems to be its divisiveness, there is no better reason for us to come together than to ensure a promising future for our children.
“According to today’s report, autism affects one in 68 children every year — nearly a 30% increase from two years ago. Autism is a disorder that does not discriminate; it affects every race, ethnicity and income level. It affects real people, with real families who face real struggles, and it operates on a broad spectrum, manifesting itself in many different ways. While we may not have the science or medicine to prevent it at this time, our understanding of what it means to have autism is only improving. This encourages us to work toward helping those struggling with the disorder — which is exactly what the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act aims to do.
“Today’s announcement highlights the experiences of families affected by autism and the need for a national strategy to address the issue. The ABLE Act, which would ease financial strains by providing tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities, is a simple solution that offers significant and meaningful support. It has been a long-held American belief that we must be a voice for those who struggle to find their own. As a society, we must never accept that a person may be unable to fulfill their full potential because of the circumstances of their birth. Helping those with disabilities, particularly children, is something that distinguishes us as a country, and it is a value we must work to maintain.
“Today, I am proud to stand with the autism community and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to respond to this public health crisis.”
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
(Member Congressional Autism Caucus)
“Today’s announcement by the CDC highlights the need for a national strategy to address the growing prevalence of autism in this country. This is all the more reason for us to pass Avonte’s Law so that that our young people with autism have the resources they need to be kept safe from harm. I will continue to push for funding to enhance crucial research, training programs and other resources needed to help our children and teens with ASD and their families succeed. Thank you to Autism Speaks and the many other organizations that advocate on behalf of those with ASD and their families and communities.”
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
(Member of the Congressional Autism Caucus)
“I am a strong supporter of investing in medical research to help improve treatments, as well as increasing education surrounding serious diseases like autism. In 2013, Sequestration cut $18.9 million in federal funding for autism programs, which has disproportionately harmed American families across the country. To help individuals with autism and their families, I will continue my fight to protect funding for the NIH, CDC, and other health programs. Smart and strong investments in research, treatments, and services is critical to address the public health emergency posed by autism spectrum disorders.”