By Nicole Mulvaney | Times of Trenton:

Legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th District) authorizing $1.3 billion over five years for federal autism research passed the Senate Thursday night.

The bill cleared the House of Representatives in June and is now awaiting President Obamas signature into law.

By passing this legislation, Congress assures individuals with autism and their families that they will not be left behind, and that we are working to assist and empower them, Smith said in a news release.

The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support or Autism CARES Act tasks federal agencies with examining and anticipating needs for adolescents with autism who are aging out of their school-based support systems, the release said.

Every year 50,000 youths with autism enter into adulthood and communities that are unprepared to meet their support needs, Smith said. It is imperative that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are empowered to be self-sufficient so that they can not only earn money to meet their own needs, but also so they can utilize the talents they possess to contribute to society at large.

The Autism CARES Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), is aimed at programs to assist those with the developmental disorder as they transition into adulthood.

In the 1990s, about one in 10,000 individuals were diagnosed with autism nationwide; that figure now stands at one in 68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In New Jersey alone, one in 45 people are diagnosed.

Among the $1.3 billion is $950 million in research grants at the National Institutes of Health and Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee and $110 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Developmental Disabilities Surveillance and Research Program.

We too often see people with ASD as victims who must be cared for, when the focus which their condition produces may allow them to be highly successful in certain endeavors, Smith said. When we begin to look at people with ASD in this light, we can better see how they can be enabled to contribute to society. It just requires understanding of their potential as well as their limitations. 


By Nicole Mulvaney | Times of Trenton on August 01, 2014 at 1:58 PM, updated August 01, 2014 at 6:21 PM