Priorities for the Autism Community During this Time of Crisis

March 24, 2020

Congress is currently working to address the evolving effects of COVID-19. We have been monitoring this activity and communicating with our congressional champions to ensure that the needs of the autism community are addressed during this critical time.

Congressmen Chris Smith and Mike Doyle, co-chairs of the Congressional Autism Caucus, sent a letter to congressional leadership this week expressing some of our concerns and requests for additional support for people with autism.

In a time of uncertainty, people with autism and their families are facing sudden disruptions in daily services and resources. This is forcing many autistic individuals over the “services cliff,” as supports they normally receive within a school system, day program or other setting are no longer available. To address the demands this is placing on individuals and families, we are advocating for policymakers to quickly provide assistance to individuals on the spectrum to ensure that their health and educational needs are met. Here are just a few of the policies we are fighting for:

Increased funding for home and community-based services (HCBS)

We support grants to states to enhance Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS). These grants could be used to increase available services to eligible individuals, recruit new direct service workers and home health workers, increase provider payment rates, and support emergency enrollment.

Educational supports for students with autism

We support the efforts of states and localities to resume educating all students as soon and as safely as possible, including measures to ensure that distance learning and other supports address the unique needs of students with disabilities and comply with existing requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Looking ahead, we specifically support increased funding under IDEA to provide compensatory services for students with disabilities so that schools have the resources to help them make up for lost time. While schools are not providing general education services, we support state and local efforts to provide teaching resources to caregivers at home.

Expanding telehealth services

We support expanding telehealth services to provide continuity in access to physical and mental health services. Expanding access to telehealth services – including behavioral, physical and mental health care – could help families and individuals access care necessary for maintaining their health and wellness during this crisis and beyond. We specifically support expanding grants at the Health Resources and Services Administration that target individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.