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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Letter on the Combating Autism Act Reauthorization

A number of disability groups has written to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Representative Michael Doyle (D-PA):
We, the undersigned organizations committed to advancing equality of opportunity for people with disabilities, write with regard to the upcoming re-authorization of the Combating Autism Act (CAA). As you consider re-authorizing CAA, we urge you to incorporate the need for substantive changes to reflect the priorities of autistic people and their families. Congress should make common-sense changes that will ensure that federal funds are better used to benefit the community that this legislation is designed to serve.
We are urging a re-alignment of CAA to reflect a greater emphasis on the needs of autistic adults and services as well as a more inclusive process that better represents the priorities of autistic people and their allies. As we outline below, a larger proportion of federal autism research funding should be used for the purposes of research on services and the needs of adults; autistic people should have greater representation on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC); the IACC should be reorganized so that it can better fulfill its mandate to create a unified strategic plan for autism research and programs; and the name of the legislation should be changed to emphasize support for, rather than antagonism toward, autistic people and their families.
The signers:
American Association of People with Disabilities
Association for Autistic Community
Association of People Supporting Employment First
Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL)
Autism Society of America
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Autism Women’s Network
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
The Jewish Federations of North America
Little People of America
National Council on Independent Living
National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery
National Disability Rights Network
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Federation of the Blind
Not Dead Yet
Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities
Disability Scoop reports:
Stuart Spielman of Autism Speaks, which has long-championed the bill in its current form, acknowledged that there is more work to be done, citing areas like transition and employment that merit greater attention, but insisted that all components of the current law are “vital.”
“We want to build on the successes of the Combating Autism Act,” said Spielman, the group’s senior policy advisor and counsel. “There’s a lot more that needs to be done but if you look at where things were at years ago, we have made progress.”
Menendez, who has traditionally been the measure’s chief Senate sponsor, is open to some reforms of the legislation which originated in 2006 but given that this is a reauthorization of an existing law, there are limits to how much change is realistic, an aide to the senator told Disability Scoop.

Lawmakers are looking to introduce a proposal for reauthorization in the coming weeks and are aiming for approval by August, the aide said.