Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Coalition on Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E.), marked today as World Autism Day and April as National Autism Month.
"The human costs of autism are staggering," said Smith, author of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, Public Law 112-32, signed into law in September 2011. "It makes the necessity of seeking prevention, effective treatments and even someday a cure more critical than ever."
The CDC in 2012 released alarming data showing that 1 in every 88 American children and 1 in every 49 New Jersey children has a form of autism, affecting 5 times more boys than girls. The CDC researchers revealed that autism affects 1 in 83 non-Hispanic whites, 1 in 98 non-Hispanic blacks, and 1 in 126 Hispanics. Knowing racial discrepancies are important because the data may lead to clues about the causes of autism, and may help in the delivery of support services. Only weeks ago a new CDC survey suggested an even higher 1 in 50 autism prevalence rate, heightening the need for a national strategy to address the epidemic.
The estimated financial costs of the disability are staggering as well-- $126 billion per year in the U.S.--a number that has more than tripled since 2006. The costs of providing care for each person with autism affected by intellectual disability through his or her lifespan are $2.3 million in the U.S. The lifetime costs of caring for individuals who are not impacted by intellectual disability are $1.4 million in the U.S.
"We as a nation must work to find out what factors cause autism and seek out improved methods to diagnose autistic children as early as possible, so that interventional care can start at as early an age as possible," said Smith, who also authored the provision in Title I of the Children's Health Act (PL 106-310) which created the Centers of Excellence in Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology. "Families are depending on ongoing research, new treatments and a path to a cure to have hope in their daily lives."
Smith's landmark legislation enacted in 2000--the Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research and Epidemiology Act (Title I, P.L. 106-310) created the first comprehensive federal program to combat autism. In 2011, another piece of legislation he authored, The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA)," now Public Law 112-32, was enacted and will provide $693 million over the next three years to continue the program. Smith's law, CARA, signed on September 30, 2011, authorized for each of the next three fiscal years: $22 million for the Developmental Disabilities Surveillance and Research Program; $48 million for Autism Education, Early Detection, and Intervention, and $161 million for hundreds of Research Grants at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and for the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.