President Donald Trump has signed a bill reauthorizing numerous programs across the country to ensure high quality service to people with autism. The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act (CARES) was authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA). More than 35 non-governmental organizations have endorsed the legislation, including the Autism Society of America, Autism Speaks, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the National Council on Severe Autism.
Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. The condition is characterized by social, communication and behavioral problems. The abilities of children with autism can range from gifted to severely challenged. There is no cure for autism, but early intervention and treatment can greatly enhance a child’s development.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in every 59 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and there are an estimated 1.5 million American children with autism. The developmental disability is four times more prevalent in males than in females. Congressman Smith said in a statement, “We need answers now and treatment options and interventions that work.”
The Autism Cares Act will allocate $1.8 billion over the next 5 years to fund research, programs and treatment methods to help people with autism spectrum disorder and their families. The annual budget on autism efforts has been increased to $369.7 million through 2024, including $296 million for National Institutes of Health (NIH), $23.1 million for the CDC, and $50 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Some funding will also go towards autism research grants.
Congressman Smith has long been an advocate for autism research and treatment. This is the fourth law he’s authored and has gotten signed for the cause since 2000. The first was HR 274, Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology Act (ASSURE), which was included as part of the Children’s Health Act in 2000. He also authored HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011 and HR 4631, the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research and Education (CARES) Act of 2014.