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Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now Applaud Presidential Signing of the Combating Autism Act

Landmark Legislation Authorizes Nearly $1 Billion in Autism Funding

(NEW YORK, NY – December 20, 2006) – Leadership of Cure Autism Now and Autism Speaks, nonprofit organizations dedicated to increasing awareness of autism and raising money to fund autism research, today applauded President Bush's signing of the landmark Combating Autism Act of 2006 (S. 843). The bill – which has the support of all major autism advocacy groups -- authorizes nearly $1 billion over the next five years to combat autism through research, screening, early detection and early intervention. The new legislation will increase federal spending on autism by at least fifty percent. It includes provisions relating to the diagnosis and treatment of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and expands and intensifies biomedical research on autism, including an essential focus on possible environmental causes. Autism is now diagnosed in 1 in 166 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“The Combating Autism Act represents a critical and hard-fought victory for the autism community, and yet much of the toughest work is still to come during next year's appropriations process,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks and Chairman and CEO of NBC Universal. “We must continue to be collaborative and relentless in our efforts to ensure that this historic commitment is fulfilled.”

“The campaign to enact the Combating Autism Act worked because it was bipartisan in the truest sense of the word, as our political leaders put the interests of individuals and families impacted by autism above all else,” said Jon Shestack, co-founder of Cure Autism Now. “As the prevalence of autism grows, the odds are that every American will know a family who will directly benefit from the programs and research made possible by this legislation.”

The Combating Autism Act was signed into law by President Bush this morning. The bill was sponsored by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT). The House version was brought to the House floor by Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. A companion bill was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswomen Mary Bono (R-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO).

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 166 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 and Cure Autism Now are dedicated to increasing awareness of the growing autism epidemic and to raising money to fund scientists who are searching for a cure. Cure Autism Now was founded in 1995 by Jonathan Shestack and Portia Iversen, parents of a child with autism. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric, and Chairman and CEO, NBC Universal. Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now (CAN) recently announced plans to combine operations, bringing together the two leading organizations dedicated to accelerating and funding biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for Autism Spectrum Disorders; to increasing awareness of the nation's fastest-growing developmental disorder; and to advocating for the needs of affected families. Together the organizations have awarded autism research grants valued at more than 80 million dollars. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit To learn more about Cure Autism Now, please visit