NEW YORK (June 13, 2006) -- Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism and raising money to fund autism research, today praised the House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Subcommittee's passage of its FY 2007 appropriations bill which, for the first time, includes a line item for $7.5 million for research on autism spectrum disorders. The bill must now pass through the Joint Conference Committee. Each year the Department of Defense invests tens of millions of dollars in various medical research programs. In FY 2005, for example, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer were among the diseases funded by the DOD. This appropriation measure would mark the first time such spending has been directed toward research into autism, a disorder that now affects one in every 166 children.
"This is a watershed moment for the autism community as we continue to seek federal funding for autism research that is commensurate with the scope of this epidemic," said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. "We are grateful to the members of the House of Representatives whose leadership and appreciation of autism's particular toll on military families made this possible. This funding will help drive the research that will eventually yield the answers about autism that we all seek so desperately."
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 new appropriation is the result of a concerted effort by the co-chairs of the Congressional Autism Research and Education Caucus, Representatives Chris Smith and Mike Doyle, the Members of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and a group of determined volunteers," said Ann Gibbons, a member of the Autism Speaks board of directors who has led the organization's efforts to convince Congress that this funding was needed. "Dozens of our volunteers have met with their congressional representatives repeatedly over the last few years, urging inclusion of autism in the Department of Defense medical research budget. Their persistence has paid off, and we thank the members of Congress and their staffers who have listened to our concerns and are addressing this urgent need for autism funding."