Ali McPherson at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia:
Over the last year, advocates and researchers have provided support and guidance for people in the autistic community, from recommending that people with disabilities receive high priority for the COVID-19 vaccine because of underlying health conditions, to researching the devastating impact of the pandemic on those on the spectrum. But a committee whose role is to gather input from the public on the needs of the autism community has been noticeably absent during this time.
The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee provides advice and recommendations to the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services about how federal agencies can best serve the needs of those with autism. The IACC, which typically meets at least three times a year, has not had a full meeting since July 2019.
“I think that it is only in the last month that anybody sort of lifted their head up and said, Hey, wait a second, what happened to this group? And why isn’t it meeting?” said David Mandell, a psychiatric epidemiologist and mental health services researcher who is a former member of the IACC. “This is an advisory body with no decision-making authority and no meaningful budget to make change.”
According to Susan Daniels, director of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Office of Autism Research Coordination, the reason for the hiatus is because the new members are currently in the process of being appointed by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccera, who was confirmed by the Senate Thursday.
Mandell said the committee did a lot of groundbreaking work in the past and could have played an important role in bringing certain issues to the forefront this time around.