Autism Speaks applauds introduction of the Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act

October 2, 2020

Thanks to the leadership of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) and Congressman Adam Schiff (CA-28), the Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act was introduced today. This legislation provides over $12 billion in dedicated funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the Assistive Technology Act (AT Act) to address the needs of youth with disabilities, including students on the spectrum, during the pandemic.

Autism Speaks has championed bipartisan efforts to promote safe, equitable and individualized recovery services for autistic individuals during the pandemic. We are committed to safeguarding the legal protections of and maximizing opportunities for our community during this crisis.

Students with autism and other disabilities have been disproportionately impacted by the disruptions caused by the coronavirus. While all students have faced new challenges in accessing distance learning, community supports and other related services, families and educators have shared with Autism Speaks that many of their autistic students have experienced learning loss and skill regression due to a lack of in-person instruction and related services like speech, occupational and behavioral therapies. The absence of these critical services can change the trajectory of a child’s development and impact future opportunities.

“Until a safe return to in-person learning is widely available, we must do everything we can to increase and improve the services our students receive today,” said Angela T. Geiger, president and CEO of Autism Speaks.  “We are grateful for the leadership of Reps. Johnson and Schiff for introducing this important legislation to provide the dedicated funding schools need to address some of the challenges autistic students face as a result of the coronavirus.”

Budget constraints at the state level have only exacerbated problems providing special education services. The federal funding allocated to states in this bill will ease the financial burdens felt by schools and help them meet their service commitments to students with autism and other disabilities.

The priorities outlined in this legislation mirror those in the Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act (S.4100), which was introduced by Senators Chris Murphy, Maggie Hassan and Chris Van Hollen in June. The bicameral support of these priorities is a sign of congressional commitment to empower schools to support students with autism and other disabilities as the pandemic continues and schools work to reopen their doors.

“Autism Speaks remains committed to protecting the rights of autistic students in our nation’s schools both during and after this pandemic,” said Geiger. “We will continue to advocate at the local, state and federal levels to ensure the concerns of the autism community are made – and kept – a priority by legislators and other government officials.”