President Donald Trump this week signed into law the Autism Cares Act of 2019, which authorizes $1.8 billion over five years to help children and adults with autism by funding research, early detection and treatments.

Suzanne Buchanan, executive director of Autism New Jersey, said The Autism Cares Act is a continuation of the federal government's response to the needs of the autism community throughout the country.

Children with autism have a federal right to a free and appropriate public education which ends at age 21. That's where the adult service delivery system picks up. The problems is that this system is underfunded and under resourced in terms of the number of providers and programs, Buchanan said. Some parents describe it as falling off a services cliff.

The $1.8 billion funding includes spending for The National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does the prevalent studies, and the Health Resources and Services Administration. The law also reauthorizes and expands the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

"I think the intent of this law is to explore the needs of adults with autism, document them, and then try to look to the professional literature to see what best practices we should be doing in everyday life. There's a huge gap between what we know in the research and everyday service delivery," said Buchanan.

According to the CDC, New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the country with 1 in 34 children identified with ASD. Nationally, 1 in 59 children have it. That's a 15% jump since the previous study conducted in 2016.

Two New Jersey leaders who co-sponsored the act include U.S. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., 4th District.

Autism New Jersey's 37th Annual Autism Conference, which expects to draw more than 1,500 parents and professionals, will take place Oct. 17 and 18 at Harrah's Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City.

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