Funding for Autism CARES Act set to expire at end of month

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WASHINGTON DC (NEXSTAR) – Researchers say about one in 60 children has autism spectrum disorder.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that rate has doubled in the last decade partly because doctors have gotten better at diagnosing autism.

The Autism CARES Act has coordinated and expanded federal funding for autism research and services, but that could all stop at the end of the month.

“At one point in time, autism was regarded as a rare condition,” said Stuart Spielman, with Autism Speaks SVP of Advocacy.

Three decades ago, researchers estimated one in 10,000 children had autism.

Now, reports show about one in 60 are on the spectrum of autism disorders.

“We have a better understanding of how autism affects our communities,” Spielman said.

Spielman with Autism Speaks gives some of the credit to the Autism CARES Act.

Since 2000, it has provided federal funding for research and training to better diagnose and treat people living with ASD.

“We can’t really stand to lose the momentum,” he said.

But the funding is set to expire at the end of the month. Now, nearly every attorney general in the country is calling on Congress to reauthorize it.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement, “More research and services are necessary to address the needs of our rapidly increasing population of Americans on the autism spectrum.”

“We need to make sure all of these individuals have the best possible future,” Spielman said.

Spielman said to get there, the funds would make sure people with ASD have better access to services in rural areas and more opportunities for jobs, healthcare and housing.

Congress comes back next week from recess. Members have to decide whether to make a move before September 30.

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