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Houses OK's Doyle/Smith Autism Bill

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Location: Washington, DC

"TRAIN' boosts training, education for autism service providers

Washington, Sep 23 - A bill to improve services for children and adults with autism and their families, and advance training and education for autism service providers including classroom teachers and healthcare professionals, overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives this afternoon.

HR 5756, the "Training and Research for Autism Improvements Nationwide (TRAIN) Act" was introduced in July by U.S. Representatives Mike Doyle (PA-14) and Chris Smith (NJ-4). Doyle and Smith are the co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition for Autism Research and Education (CARE). Recent data has shown that autism--a developmental disability on the rise--now strikes about one of every 110 children in America. The most recent data specifically for New Jersey showed the Garden State with the highest prevalence in the nation.

"Implementation of the TRAIN Act will significantly expand the ranks of qualified service providers, who are equipped with the knowledge and tools of state-of-the-science, evidence--based educational, medical, and social interventions," said Smith on the House floor prior to passage. "The TRAIN Act, offers an opportunity for us to do something for the 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. who are living with autism every day. We know that with the right services and supports, autistic children and adults can lead fuller, happier and healthier lives. The TRAIN Act will help ensure that those living with autism and their families are not abandoned to fend for themselves among uncoordinated and even discordant information on treatments and services." (Click here to read Congressman Smith's floor remarks.)

TRAIN (click here to read the bill), which passed by a vote of 393-24, would establish grants to provide training, continuing education, technical assistance and information to improve autism services.

"Individuals on the autism spectrum often need assistance in the areas of comprehensive early intervention, health, recreation, job training, employment, housing, transportation, and early, primary, secondary and post-secondary education," Congressman Doyle said during debate on H.R. 5756. "With access to, and assistance with, these types of services and supports, individuals on the autism spectrum can live rich, full, and productive lives. The TRAIN Act will help expand the number of individuals adequately trained to provide this essential assistance -- and keep them up to date with the latest developments in this field.

"I'm pleased to say that there's strong bipartisan support for improving the services available to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families, starting with my friend and co-chair of the House Autism Committee, Chris Smith," Congressman Doyle added.

The bill amends the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDDs) or comparable entities with the goal of providing individuals (including parents and health, vocational, and educational professionals) training and education. HR 5756 also authorizes up to four new UCEDDs at minority institutions or in states that have underserved populations. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that implementing the bill would cost up to $55 million between 2011-2015, depending upon annual appropriations.

Smith is the author of the H.R. 274 (which became law in 2000), the Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research and Epidemiology Act (Title I, P.L. 106-310) which authorized grants and contracts for the collection, analysis, and reporting of data on autism and pervasive developmental disabilities, and established regional centers of excellence in autism surveillance and epidemiology. He was awarded the 2010 Legislator of the Year Award by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC), a group that works to provide services for individuals with disabilities. NAPSEC cited Smith's work on autism issues in naming him the 2010 award recipient.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of every 110 children (1 of 70 boys) in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. Currently, 1.5 million individuals in the US are on the autism spectrum. 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 more fully in their communities.

The TRAIN Act, which is supported by Autism Speaks, the Autism Society of America, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and other organizations, passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July.


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