Smith Named 2010 Legislator Of The Year
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4th) was awarded 2010 Legislator of the Year Award by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC), a group that works across the country to provide services for individuals with disabilities.
"NAPSEC is giving you this award because of your work on behalf of individuals with disabilities," said Sherry L. Kolbe, Executive Director and CEO of NAPSEC. "Your work on legislation to increase Congressional activities related to autism and to establish new and expanded Federal programs on autism, is to be commended. We especially appreciate your efforts in establishing the Coalition for Autism Research and Education (CARE), which informs Members of Congress about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the concerns of researchers, advocates and parents."
CARE is a bipartisan congressional caucus Smith founded in the late 1990's to garner support in the House of Representatives for addressing the growing cases of autism. It is now believed that 1 out of every 110 children born in the United States suffers from an ASD.
"The extremely high prevalence of autism in our country requires a comprehensive, national effort to fight a disease that has historically been overlooked," Smith said. "There has been some progress, thanks especially to NAPSEC and the many parents who struggle with raising an autistic child. This isn't just their fight, however. It's a national fight that affects millions of parents and children in every state, coast-to-coast. Our work goes on in Washington and around the country for better research, better services and adequate funding to battle this disease."
Smith worked to significantly increase federal funding for autism initiatives. For instance, funding for autism programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has increased from about $287,000 in 1995 to $22 million in 2010. During that same period autism funding at the National Institutes of Health increased from $10.5 million in 1995 to an estimated $136 million in 2010.
Smith's leadership activities on Autism research, treatment and prevention include but is not limited to:
Establishing the first congressional autism caucus: the Coalition for Autism Research and Education (CARE). There are approximately 130 members of Smith's autism caucus which has been especially effective in educating Members of Congress about the increasing incidents of autism and the challenges faced by families with autism. The caucus has also helped garner additional federal funding for programs designed to help autistic children and their caregivers.
Authoring the Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology (ASSURE) Act which became Title I of the Children's Health Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-310), which established centers of excellence on autism surveillance and directed the creation of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee to coordinate federal autism activities. One center was established in NJ.
* Working with CARE Co-chair Mike Doyle, Smith secured a new federal autism program within the US Department of Defense. Research directed by the DOD program will not only help the more than 12,000 military children currently affected by autism, but will also benefit the general autism population as new findings and techniques will be shared with the medical, educational, healthcare and service professionals who serve the needs of the autism community both within the DOD and beyond. Since 2007, this Smith effort has garnered nearly 29.9 million with more expected in FY 2011.
* Leading the fight for additional legislation including The Global Autism Assistance Act (HR 1878), to establish a "teach the teachers" program in which qualified US specialists would train education and health professionals working with children with autism in the developing world; and the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act (H.R. 2413), which would develop model autism care centers to improve the care that individuals with autism receive and coordinate those services at a single location.
"I am honored to receive this award, especially from people who are on the frontline everyday helping, caring and loving children and families facing autism," Smith said. "Because of you, children with disabilities are getting better service and care. I am inspired by your work and am determined as ever to push the federal government to be a partner in the effort to enhance autism research and treatment."
The range and severity of symptoms of autism vary from case to case, but symptoms often include difficulties in communicating and interacting with other individuals and exhibiting repetitive behaviors and intense interests in specific subjects. The care involved in treating these symptoms often requires hours of intensive therapy every week-regimens that are often inaccessible or unaffordable for many families. With early intervention and concentrated treatment, the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can be mitigated, enabling individuals with autism and their families to participate fully in their communities.
NAPSEC is an association of private early intervention services, schools, residential therapeutic centers, and adult living programs across the nation that provide services for people with disabilities. NAPSEC represents 96 New Jersey private specialized programs.