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Autism Speaks™ Co-founder Bob Wright and Actor and Advocate Bradley Whitford Appear Before Senate Appropriations Subcommittee to Advocate for Combating Autism Act Funding

Seeking Initial $168 Million in Federal Funding for Autism Research, Awareness and Early Identification Efforts

WASHINGTON, DC (April 17, 2007) -- Autism Speaks Co-Founder Bob Wright, testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Capitol Hill, today urged Congress to appropriate $168 million for Fiscal Year 2008 to fund the Combating Autism Act (CAA). Signed into law by President Bush last December, CAA is landmark legislation that authorizes $920 million in federal funding over the next five years to fight autism through biomedical research, surveillance, awareness and early identification. This figure represents a fifty percent increase in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spending on autism, a neurobiological disorder that now affects 1 in every 150 children according to the latest CDC statistics.

For FY ‘08, the CAA authorizes $168 million to the Secretary of HHS for autism activities, including three specific line items: $16.5 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct its Developmental Disabilities Surveillance and Research program; $37 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration to carry out an Autism Education, Early Detection, and Intervention Program; and $114.5 million for NIH-funded autism research.

“The public health crisis posed by autism requires an extraordinary response. With every new child diagnosed with autism costing an estimated $3 million over his or her lifetime, we cannot afford to rely on standard, ‘business as usual' practices,” stated Wright in his testimony. “The autism crisis demands a focused, coordinated, and accountable response by our public health agencies, similar to the federal response to the AIDS crisis in the 1990s, with line-item appropriations for autism intervention, surveillance and research tied to a strategic plan.”

Actor Bradley Whitford, a long-time autism advocate, also presented testimony at the hearing. “The unanimous passage of the Combating Autism Act by both houses of Congress can be an historic turning point,” Whitford told the Senators. “Now the burden falls on you, on this subcommittee, to turn Congress' promise on autism into reality.”

Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism Spectrum Disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric, and Chairman, NBC Universal. Autism Speaks has merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit