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Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DOYLE. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that the House of Representatives is considering legislation to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act, and it's not a moment too soon with the Combating Autism Act set to expire at the end of this month.

I want to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of this act, and I also want to thank my counterpart, my colleague and my good friend, Chris Smith, on the other side of the aisle, for his leadership on this issue.

Five years ago, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation by a voice vote that provided the support and direction for the country's first autism-specific research. That bill, the Combating Autism Act, included life-changing provisions relating to the diagnosis and treatment of persons with autism spectrum disorders, and expanded biomedical research on autism, including an essential focus on possible environmental causes.

With this funding, the Centers for Disease Control have been able to put together detailed surveillance of autism so that we have better data to use. Autism screening at well-baby checkups have become mainstream, and parents are better educated about the warning signs, along with the treatment options. Additionally, standards of care for those with an autism spectrum disorder have been developed for both physical and behavioral health where there had been none.

Early diagnoses and intervention for children with autism is utterly life changing. It can mean the difference between independence in the community and living in a communal home. It can mean the difference between speaking or being mute. And for many parents, it means peace of mind and a support network that would have been impossible without this initial investment in research on autism spectrum disorders.

I introduced this legislation with my good friend, Chris Smith, as part of a three-bill package. Those pieces of legislation would ensure that there are also services available to adults with autism, which I think is critical. It's my hope that in the future this body will have a conversation about the needs of adults living with autism, and that we will consider how best to provide for them so that everyone has a long, fulfilling and productive life.

But, for now, it is of grave importance that the House passes this reauthorization with the same overwhelming support as 5 years ago and that we can get this bill to the President's desk by the end of this month.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DOYLE. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, I first learned about autism when I was a young staffer in the Pennsylvania State senate. A gentleman by the name of Dan Torisky came into our office one day. His son, Eddie, had autism, and he had asked us to see what we could do at the State level to give him and his family some help. Eddie was a young man at that time. He's an adult now. He's in his mid-forties. A lot of people's idea of autism I think was from the movie ``Rain Man.'' That was about the only thing they knew about autism. It was something that people didn't understand and something that was frequently misdiagnosed.

When Chris and I decided to form this caucus over 10 years ago, one of the goals that we had was to bring education and awareness, not only to our colleagues, many of whom were not familiar with the disorder, but also to the public, and also to bring some attention to the researchers at NIH too, that there was something much bigger to this than people realized. It has borne fruit over the years. We've seen research dollars greatly increased at NIH.

I want to also echo what my friend, Chris, said about the parents' groups. This is really the strength of the autism community. It's not the Autism Caucus. It's not Chris Smith or Mike Doyle. It's really the parents of these children that formed the many different groups you see out there. Their grassroots effort really has grown this movement, brought attention to it, given it strength and brought us to where we are today.

We have a clock ticking. This act expires at the end of September. I know there's some concern over in the Senate with some of our colleagues about reauthorizing these specific bills. I hope that all of us will speak to our colleagues over in the Senate--I certainly intend to speak to mine--and stress the importance of continuing the great progress that's been made over these past 5 years. This is not a time for us to stop what we're doing and to pull support for this very, very important act.

I hope that we will pass this swiftly in the House of Representatives, and I hope all of us will use whatever influence we may have with our colleagues in the other body to see that they also get this reauthorized by the end of the month so that the President can sign it for all of the families out in America who are dealing with this disorder.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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