WASHINGTON, DC (April 17, 2007) -- Leadership of Autism Speaks, the nation's leading autism advocacy organization, joined members of Congress on Capitol Hill today to announce the introduction of the Expanding the Promise of Individuals with Autism Act (EPIAA) in the House of Representatives. Autism Speaks Executive Committee Member Jon Shestack and actor and long-time autism advocate Bradley Whitford applauded Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Chip Pickering (R-MS), House co-sponsors of the bill, for their leadership. The bill was introduced in the Senate last month by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Wayne Allard (R-CO).
The EPIAA would dramatically expand federal funding for life-long services for people with autism, authorizing approximately $350 million in new federal funding – above and beyond all existing federal dollars – for key programs related to treatments, interventions and services for both children and adults with autism. Among the EPIAA's key elements are the authorization of a task force – which will include significant representation from the autism community – that will report to Congress and the Executive Branch on the state of evidence-based biomedical and behavioral treatments and services for both children and adults with autism, including identifying gaps in applied research on such treatments, interventions and services. It would also mandate a GAO study on service provision and financing.
“While we wait for science to find the answers that we need, there are over a million affected children and adults who need help now,” said Shestack. “The EPIAA will expand and intensify the federal commitment to serving the needs of those touched by autism, through spending on treatments, interventions, and services for children and adults. We are very grateful to Reps. Doyle and Smith – chairs of the Autism Caucus -- and Congressmen Engel and Pickering for bringing this important legislation to the House of Representatives.”
“I want to commend our government leaders for championing legislation that finally offers a lifeline to the many families struggling with autism who are desperately trying to keep their families afloat,” said Whitford. “I have watched the rate of autism diagnosis grow from 1 in 2500 to 1 in 150, according to the latest CDC figures. We must act now.”
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.
ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS
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 www.autismspeaks.org.