Every year, some 50,000 youth with autism come of age in the United States. No one can say for sure what adulthood will hold for them, but legislation signed into law by President Obama Friday will help ease the burden on them and their families.
Known formally as the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act of 2014 (Autism CARES), it was sponsored by Congressional Representatives Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.) and his Mike Doyle (D-Pa.).
The legislation authorizes $1.3 billion over the next five years: $950 million is allocated for research grants; another $110 million will go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue researching the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders; and $340 million will go to early detection, education and intervention.
“And the new law, for the first time, tasks the federal government with examining and anticipating needs for autistic adolescents who are ‘aging out’ of their school-based support and transitioning into adulthood,” said Smith, who authored the original 2000 legislation that helped form the base line of federal autism programs.
Smith’s commitment to the cause began 17 years ago when Bobbie and Billy Gallagher came to him, requesting research into autism rates among children in Brick Township.
Bobbie Gallagher, whose two autistic children are now over the age of 21, previously said that the inclusion of research on how to serve young adults with autism was overdue and necessary.
“The Gallaghers are pioneers in the effort to find better treatment and interventions for children with autism,” Smith said. “Together with other parents, they have been tenacious in their efforts to see this bill passed into law. The laws we have today to help families with autism would not be on the books were it not for them.”