Scientific advancements though policy
Doubling the lagging federal investment in autism research would improve the lives of individuals on the spectrum and their families and benefit the nation that depends on their contributions.
1 in 54 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis - representing about 2% of the nation’s population. We know this because of the federal investment to better understand the prevalence of autism in the U.S. That federal investment of $3.5 billion since 2007 has led to progress in many areas such as reducing the age at which autism can be reliably diagnosed from 3 years to between 18 and 24 months. The earlier a child receives a diagnosis, the more likely the child is to access services that can have a major positive impact.
Despite the progress that has been made, the level of funding relative to need has lagged significantly. It has been estimated that the total annual cost of ASD in the U.S. is between $162 billion and $367 billion. Yet the combined annual investment from both federal AND private entities is just .09%-.21% of the estimated annual cost of ASD. Much of the cost of autism occurs in adulthood. These are costs that can be in part mitigated by early identification and intervention, allowing people with autism to work and more fully participate in their communities.
Individuals on the autism spectrum, their families and our nation deserve better.
Individuals on the spectrum make important contributions to our society, but we need to do more to support research that will improve treatments and services to ensure each person on the spectrum is able to meet their full potential. We need to better understand the biology of autism to tackle the significant challenges that so many individuals on and across the spectrum have with communication, social interaction, anxiety, depression and health conditions like epilepsy. More research is needed to understand autism throughout the life span to better support housing, employment and other supports.
The path forward: Double the federal investment for autism research
Due to increased understanding, awareness and investment over the past decade, we are at a critical point. It is time for us as a nation to seize that momentum and make funding autism research a national priority.
The best catalyst for this effort would be for elected officials to join us in our call to double the federal investment in autism research.
Doubling this investment would follow the recommendation of the federal committee created by Congress to coordinate and advise on federal autism research efforts - the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) - made in its most recent strategic plan.
Even though doubling the amount of funding would still not meet the research needs that the IACC has articulated, it would be a strong signal to individuals on the spectrum and their families across the country that our leaders recognize the importance of autism research and would be giant step forward for funding research that would impact every community throughout the country.