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Government Relations

Members of Congress and Americans with autism are getting to know each other a little better every day on Capitol Hill.

Through an innovative program launched four years ago by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), interns with developmental disabilities have been placed in Congressional offices to perform staff work while rubbing elbows with the nation's top elected officials. In the process, they are helping change attitudes among key decisionmakers about what people with developmental disabilities can do in the workplace.

Molly Whalen, a District of Columbia mom with two kids on the spectrum, recently testified in favor of legislation that for the first time would require autism coverage in health insurance plans sold in the District. The DC Council votes June 4 on its new Health Benefit Exchange policies which will start operation in 2014. Here is her story:

More than half of all children with autism are insured by Medicaid. Some states insure children with autism through Home and Community-Based Services Waivers -- special programs that waive certain Medicaid rules so that people with great needs can be served in their communities rather than in institutions.

This post appears in this month's issue of Exceptional Parent Magazine and highlights the work of military spouses Karen Driscoll (Marines), Rachel Kenyon (pictured below, Connecticut Army National Guard), Jeremy Hilton (USAF) and others to improve TRICARE coverage for milutary kids. The result was action by Congress to create a one-year pilot program that is now being closely monitored by Autism Speaks.

by Stuart Spielman, Senior Policy Counsel and Advisor

As national health care moves closer to its 2014 launch date, Autism Speaks grows increasingly concerned that the federal government will not require universal coverage for autism benefits as directed by Congress, but instead will leave it up to each state. In its latest guidance to the states, issued just prior to Thanksgiving, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule that could exclude access to behavioral health treatment in up to 21 states.

by Blair Hughes and Karen Driscoll. Hughes is the wife and full-time caregiver of a Wounded Warrior and mother to three children, one with autism; she serves as a Caregiver Fellow with The Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Driscoll, Autism Speaks' associate director of federal government affairs and military relations, is a Marine Corps wife and mother of three children, one with autism. 

by Shelley Hendrix, Director of Grassroots Development

The election is over. Now what?

90 days ago, we began the 1 in 88 Can’t Wait campaign. Since that time, about 12,000 more Americans have been diagnosed with autism.

That’s 12,000 new children whose parents are seeking answers for medical treatments and therapies that will help them. Another 12,000 people joining wait lists for doctor visits, treatment centers, service providers and Medicaid waivers.