Public Policy Priorities During COVID-19

In a time of uncertainty for all, people with autism and their families find especially difficult the disruptions of comforting routines and predictability. Closures and social distancing force 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 advocate for quick assistance to individuals on the spectrum to ensure that their health and educational needs are met.

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

We support enhanced funding for Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS). These additional funds could be used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), increase/modify available services to eligible individuals, recruit new direct service workers and home health workers to cover needs, temporarily increase provider payment rates and support emergency enrollment.

Educational supports for students with autism, and protecting rights under IDEA

We oppose Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) waivers that could threaten the rights of students with autism and other disabilities. 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. We support increasing federal funding to support states and local districts in doing so.

Expanding telehealth services and other flexibilities for autism services and supports

We support expanding telehealth services and other flexibilities to provide the greatest possible 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.

Eligibility for economic impact payments

We support expanding eligibility for economic impact payments to include dependents over 17, including disabled adults who are dependent upon their families’ support.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be difficult to wade through what will be an effective tool to cope with widespread disruptions to the daily lives of autistic children, teens and adults. Autism Speaks is leading the COVID-19 Autism Research Community Task Force to tap the rich knowledge and expertise of autism researchers during the pandemic, and offer the best available evidence-based tools here for your use. Find resources and support during this difficult time here.