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President Trump Signs Autism CARES Act to Expand Support for Autistic Individuals

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On Monday, President Donald Trump signed the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 into law, which will provide support to people on the spectrum across the lifespan.

The Autism CARES Act (H.R. 1058) is a reauthorization of an earlier bill that provided support for autistic people, the Combating Autism Act of 2006. The original bill, which uses outdated language and thinking to imply autism is something to be “cured,” was set to expire at the end of September and many families would have been cut off from the support they received through the legislation.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) sponsored the Autism CARES Act, which includes a total of $1.8 billion in funding over the next five years. The money will go to various government agencies for research, services and investigating the health and well-being of people on the spectrum across the lifespan. The bill also expands the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), a federal advisory group, adding additional self-advocates to the committee along with other representatives.

To support the autism community, the new version of the bill adds language to expand its application across the lifetime for people on the spectrum. Rep. Smith highlighted how autistic people need and deserve support beyond their childhood years, and the Autism CARES Act has now codified that into law.

“The problem of ‘aging out’ of services is a real hurdle every parent or caretaker of a child with autism inevitably faces,” Smith said in a statement. “Adults with autism continue to need their services. The Autism CARES Act recognizes that and ensures that the federal government continues to help hundreds of thousands of parents by funding research and support programs and sharing best practices.”

Smith has sponsored four bills related to the autism community, including a similar reauthorization bill in 2014. The House passed the Autism CARES Act in July and the Senate unanimously passed the bill on Sept. 19.

“We are ecstatic about the passage of the Autism CARES Act of 2019 as it’s a positive direction in legislation,” said autism advocate Kerry Magro in a press release, adding:

This is a monumental day for our entire community but especially adults with autism with the emphasis on ‘across the lifespan,’ in the legislation. … I know this feeling oh too well as an adult on the spectrum who grew up with challenges during my adolescence such as being nonverbal until two-and-a-half. I applaud the bipartisan support along with all our community who advocated to make this possible.

Header image via forcal35/Pixabay

Originally published: October 1, 2019
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