(NEW YORK, NY - September 26, 2006) - Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism and raising money to fund autism research, today praised Congress for including a $7.5 million line item for Department of Defense-funded autism research in the final Fiscal 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations bill. The bill now goes to the President for his signature. This newly-created Department of Defense research program will complement the autism research funding already sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Each year the Department of Defense invests tens of millions of dollars in various medical research programs. In FY 2005, for example, the DOD funded breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer research initiatives. This appropriation measure marks the first time such spending has been directed toward research into autism, a disorder that now affects one in every 166 children.
Based on the most recent prevalence estimates, at least 4,600 children and minor dependents of active duty families have autism, and the cost of their treatment exceeds $200 million per year. Autism Speaks has been advocating for military spending to support autism research for more than three years, beginning with the efforts of the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR), the organization it merged with in February 2006. This initiative was also supported by several other leading autism organizations.
“This appropriation represents an historic moment for the autism community,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “We are succeeding in getting our elected officials to recognize the scope of the autism epidemic and the need for more money to effectively fight this battle in the laboratory.”
"Our volunteers have worked tirelessly to ensure that their voices were heard on Capitol Hill," said Ann Gibbons, a member of the Autism Speaks board of directors who has led the organization's efforts on this issue. "We thank the members of Congress and their staff members who took the time to meet with us and listened to our urgent call for increased autism funding."
New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, along with fellow co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, and Long Island Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, led the campaign for the Department of Defense funding in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, Ohio Senator Mike DeWine joined with New York Senator Hillary Clinton, along with 16 of their fellow Senators, in support of this measure. It also enjoyed the support of both the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressmen Bill Young of Florida and John Murtha of Pennsylvania.
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, 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 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. The legislative agenda of Autism Speaks is to influence public policy and federal funding related to autism spectrum disorders. Autism Speaks is committed to working with other national and regional autism organizations to achieve this goal. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.