WASHINGTON, May 19 -- Landmark legislation that would significantly increase and expand the federal government's response to autism, a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate and relate to others and that now affects as many as one of every 166 children in America, was introduced yesterday by U.S. Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-CA), the lead sponsor of the House bill and U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), the original co-sponsor of the bill. The Combating Autism Act of 2005 (HR 2421) would authorize significant federal funds annually over the next five years to combat autism through epidemiological research, screening, intervention and education efforts.
"Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in our nation," said Congresswoman Bono. "Fortunately, the medical community is responding by increasing their efforts to effectively diagnose, treat and cure this disorder. Currently, both the cause and cure are unknown, often leaving families with feelings of frustration and hopelessness. The goal of this legislation is to support the medical community by augmenting current federal efforts by reauthorizing federal funding and allowing for better coordination of the federal response to autism," added Bono.
"The legislation introduced today will cut across federal agency lines to more effectively fund autism epidemiological research and expand autism treatment and early diagnosis. It is truly the result of the autism community pulling together to focus the nation's attention on this public health crisis," said Jonathan Shestack, co-founder of Cure Autism Now. "In addition to the leadership of Congresswomen Bono and DeGette, we have been working with U.S. Congressmen Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), the House Autism Caucus Co-Chairman, encouraging them to seek the early endorsement of this bill by the nearly 200 members of the House Autism Caucus. Passage of this legislation is critical as the incidence of autism continues to rise.”
"Right now, autism is a disorder that leaves families with far too many questions and far too few answers. While the medical community has made important steps in addressing this disorder, there is still much more to be done," said Rep. DeGette. "That is why it is so critical that we put the full weight of the federal government's scientific resources behind efforts to develop better ways to diagnose, treat and hopefully cure autism.” When the Children's Health Act, the first federal legislation addressing autism, was passed in 2000, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated the prevalence of autism at 1 in 500 children in the United States. In 2004, the CDC revised that figure to as many as 1 in 166.
"We are thrilled to see Congresswomen Bono and DeGette spearheading this critical endeavor in support of families of children with autism. The Combating Autism Act of 2005 will have a striking impact on the autism community," said Bob Wright, vice chairman, General Electric, and chairman and CEO of NBC Universal and co-founder of Autism Speaks, a new initiative devoted to education, funding, research and motivating private and governmental resources. “As the grandparents of a child diagnosed with autism just last year, my wife, Suzanne, and I -- along with the rest of the highly dedicated autism community -- are committed to seeing that this legislation is enacted."
The Combating Autism Act of 2005 would provide grant programs for every state to develop autism screening, early diagnosis and intervention programs for children – perhaps the most important thing that could happen, short of a cure. The Act also increases funds for CDC epidemiological surveillance programs, and reauthorizes the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), established in the Children's Health Act of 2000, to coordinate all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism, including activities carried out through the CDC.
The introduction of the Combating Autism Act of 2005 could not have happened without the hundreds of thousands of active parents and concerned Americans around the country.
"Unraveling the mysteries of autism demands a large, collaborative effort on many fronts," said Prisca Chen Marvin, board chair of the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and the mother of a child with autism. "This legislation is critical to our ability to continue advancing our search for answers -- for children and families today and for future generations."
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that now affects as many as 1 in every 166 children in the United States. Autism is commonly diagnosed by the age of three, and in some cases, as early as one year. Characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interactions, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, children with autism can exhibit symptoms that run mild to severe with widely differing symptom profiles.
About Cure Autism Now
The Cure Autism Now Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and funding autism research, and accelerating the pace of scientific progress toward effective treatments and a cure. Cure Autism Now is one of the largest private funders of biological research on autism, providing more than $24 million for research grants, outreach and scientific resources since its inception in 1995. During that time, it has established and supported the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), as well as numerous outreach and awareness initiatives aimed at families, physicians, governmental officials and the general public. More information about Cure Autism Now can be found at http://www.cureautismnow.org/ .
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is a new initiative devoted to educating the public about autism, facilitating and funding research, motivating private and governmental resources, and, ultimately, finding a cure for autism. Co-founded by Bob Wright, Vice Chairman of GE, and Chairman and CEO of NBC Universal, and his wife, Suzanne, Autism Speaks recognizes the importance of a coordinated effort to investigate the causes of autism, develop effective treatments, and ultimately find a cure. ( Watch at Introduction of Combating Autism Act of 2005.)
About the National Alliance for Autism Research
Established in 1994, the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) is the first nonprofit organization in the country dedicated to funding and accelerating biomedical research for autism spectrum disorders. The organization was established by parents of children with autism, concerned about the limited amount of funding for autism research. To date, NAAR has committed $21.1 million in grants for biomedical research projects worldwide that seek to find the causes, prevention, effective treatments and, ultimately, cure for autism spectrum disorders. Additionally, NAAR was instrumental in establishing the Autism Tissue Program, a parent-led brain tissue donation program for autism research. More information about NAAR can be found at .