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Friday, April 22, 2011

Autism Society and Legislation in Congress

From the Autism Society:

Action Needed: Contact Your Representatives this May 4 for the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act

April 21, 2011
By Autism Society

ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2011, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES AND ASK THEM TO COSPONSOR THE IDEA FAIRNESS RESTORATION ACT (S.613 AND H.R. 1208). This bill will allow parents to recover expert witness fees when they prevail in due process hearings and court actions under the IDEA.

IDEA gives parents the right to an impartial due process hearing, but parents must be able to afford expert witnesses to testify at those hearings. Expert witnesses can include psychologists; physicians; speech, occupational, physical, and other therapists; educational experts; positive behavioral support experts, and others. Without expert witnesses, most parents cannot prevail. Sometimes, school districts sue parents and parents must have expert witnesses to adequately defend themselves.

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act will restore the right to recover expert witness fees for parents and students with disabilities. Congress intended that parents have this right when it amended the IDEA in 1986. But in 2006, the Supreme Court acted contrary to this intent and held that parents could not recover expert witness fees in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy. Plaintiffs in other civil rights cases, like ADA cases, recover fees, and this bill would simply give parents the same right.

ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2011, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATOR AND REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK THEM TO COSPONSOR S.613 and H.R. 1208. It is crucial that Congress hear from parents of children with disabilities, advocates, attorneys, family, friends, and colleagues that this legislation is very important. If you cannot do this on May 4, please do it the week of May 2-6, 2011.


New Legislation Proposes to Meet Comprehensive Needs of All Affected by Autism

April 15, 2011
By Autism Society


Media Contact:
Amanda Glensky
Media Specialist
Autism Society
301-657-0881 x 9015

Bethesda, MD (April 15, 2011) – As American families affected by autism are struggling now more than ever to provide for their loved ones, the Autism Society thanks five U.S. Senators who today introduced a comprehensive strategy to address the needs of families. U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have cosponsored the Autism Services and Workforce Acceleration Act, which would authorize federal funding for a wide range of service, treatment, support and research initiatives.

“Those of us who have children with autism worry about their futures, particularly the transition from school to adulthood, when families lose those valuable services and supports previously afforded through the school system,” said Jeff Sell, Autism Society Vice President, Public Policy and General Counsel, who has twin 16-year-old boys with autism. “This bill addresses the concerns of parents by providing valuable assistance in vital services for adults, including postsecondary education, employment and residential services, all of the pieces that need to fall into place for a person to reach his or her fullest potential. The Autism Society thanks Senators Durbin, Casey, Menendez, Lautenberg and Gillibrand for their attention to the needs of the families we serve today.”

The Autism Services and Workforce Acceleration Act aims to meet the comprehensive needs of, and improve the quality of life for, individuals with autism and their families by:

• Creating a demonstration project to provide a full array of services like post-secondary education, vocational skills training, employment, and residential services for adults with autism to improve their quality of life and enable them to live as independently as possible;
• Creating a demonstration project to develop Autism Care Programs. These programs would provide a full array of medical, behavioral, mental health, educational and family care services to individuals and families in a single location. These comprehensive treatment facilities would increase access to quality health care services and communication among health care providers, educator and other providers of services;
• Developing a national multimedia campaign to increase public education and awareness about healthy developmental milestones and autism throughout the lifespan;
• Creating a national training initiative on autism and a technical assistance center to develop and expand interdisciplinary training and continuing education on autism.

“Almost 26,000 families in Illinois struggle with autism,” said Senator Durbin. “Because the cost of autism-related services is so overwhelming for these families, the State of Illinois passed legislation requiring health plans to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism. This bill builds on commitments the federal government has already made for people with autism, by enhancing not only access to health care but investing in essential services that will improve the lives of youth and adults with autism.”

This legislation builds on the Combating Autism Act, signed into law in December 2006, which calls on the federal government to increase research into the causes and treatment of autism, and to improve training and support for individuals with autism and their caretakers.