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Autism Research Funding Rises Above Congressional Partisanship

September 28, 2011

BOISE, Idaho - It came down to the last minute, but the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 is on its way to the president's desk after a group of Republicans lifted their hold on the bill.

The law's funding for research, training and education would have ended Friday - and directly affected services in Idaho.

John Mize, a national volunteer for the Autism Society, says the work done under the law, originally signed by President George W. Bush, 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 4 1/2 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."

That early window, Mize says, is the time when treatment and therapies often make the biggest difference.

Even though the act has received a stamp of approval, Mize says much work remains to be done as Idaho and other states have cut back on services, and federal funding through Medicaid is likely to decrease.

"Improve efficiency, improve quality of care, improve coordination of care so it reduces costs, and we can maintain a level of services that we have today."

While there is strong agreement about progress made under the Act, the sticking point had been funding because of federal budget concerns. The bill's cost will be about $700 million.

Mize says one in every 110 children is identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 is SB 1094/HR 2005. The text of the measure sent to President Obama is online at autismvotes.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID