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Autism Research Funding Deadline Looms in Congress

September 27, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The countdown is on, and the case count is going up. Congress has a week to finish considering the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (CARA), or all of the law's funding for research, training and education will stop on September 30.

John Mize, national volunteer with the Autism Society, says the work done under the law, originally signed by President Bush five years ago, has translated into impressive strides for children and their families, even as the number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders continues to rise.

"When the Act first came out in 2006, the average age of diagnosis was four-and-a-half years of age. Just this last year, they've been developing and deploying screening tools that have enabled physicians to help diagnose children as early as 12 to 18 months."

One in every 110 Ohio children is diagnosed with autism.

Mize says that early window is the time when treatment and therapies often make the biggest difference. While there is strong agreement about progress made under the Act, the sticking point has been funding because of federal budget concerns. The reauthorization would keep spending at the same level for the three-year life of the bill, for a total of nearly $700 million.

Barbara Yavorcik, executive director of the Autism Society of Ohio, says that, at a time when state budgets have cut services for autism families, and others with disabilities, CARA funding is timely. She describes what it does, by helping to identify cases and provide research for proven early interventions.

"It helps provide better outcomes for individuals with autism in the long run, and saves money for the system. So it's a wise budgetary move to fund these sorts of programs."

Also, she says, Ohio recently received a grant for autism services and part of the funding is connected to CARA.

The reauthorization bill has passed the U.S. House.

The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 is SB 1094/HR 2005.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - OH