Bill provides $1.3B for autism research
A new bill introduced in Washington would allocate $1.3 billion in funding for autism research and initiatives, as well as addressing the needs of autistic children who are "aging out" of current programs.
The Autism CARES (Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support) Act of 2014, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), would distribute the money over a five-year period.
The legislation would require a report from the Secretary of Health and Human Services on best practices for transitioning adolescents. That report will be supplemented by another one with input from state and local governments, and also instructors from the private sector and non-profits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a continued increase in autism rates, as 1 in every 68 American children born this year will have autism spectrum disorder. New Jersey leads the country with 1 in every 45 children having ASD.
Bobbie Gallagher, a mother of two highly autistic boys from Brick who first brought attention to the state's high rate 17 years ago, said addressing the issue of "aging out" is vital.
"(My sons) are not going to go to college and they're not going to be employed in the traditional sense," she said.
Gallagher said that while in the public school system, her sons received attention from highly qualified teachers and aides who helped them progress. However, those same high standards aren't there in adult programs, causing many autistic individuals' development to regress.
"It hinders their ability to be out in the community, and if you can't be out in the community, then you're not going to be out having a job either," she said. "Their world starts getting smaller instead of larger as they become adults, and that's a concern."