Autism CARES Act

Congressman Chris Smith, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, marked the beginning of Autism Month by highlighting the critical need to expand access to care, education and support services for families touched by autism—, a condition that affects one out of every 35 children in New Jersey.

“Tragically, New Jersey has the second highest rate of autism in the nation,” said the Congressman, who has worked tirelessly over the years for effective interventions and durable remedies for individuals with autism.

“During Autism Month, we bring additional attention to the needs of the autism community, the dedication of their family caregivers and the amazing work being done by grassroots organizations—including Autism Speaks, the Shore Center for Students with Autism, and Autism New Jersey—to help those with autism in our area,” said Smith, who has authored four major laws to combat autism.

Known as the Autism CARES Act, Smith’s comprehensive legislation—signed into law by President Trump—provides $1.8 billion to fund research, early detection and treatment for children and adults with autism through 2024. Smith’s law also expands government programs to include, for the first time, adults with autism who are overlooked and age out of programs.

“While much progress has been made to combat autism, we must do better to ensure those affected by autism have access to the education and services they need to live healthy, independent lives—especially and including as they ‘age out’ of school-based programs and become adults,” Smith said.

Smith’s most recent law expands the work begun under his 2014 ACT to help train health care professionals to provide diagnostic and early intervention services, including 52 Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and other Related Disabilities (LEAD) training programs—like the one at Rutgers University—as well as 10 Developmental-Behavior Pediatric (DBP) programs.

Smith first began his efforts to bring more assistance to families affected by autism a quarter of a century ago when parents of two small children with autism came to his office looking for help. He brought federal agencies to New Jersey to conduct an investigation—which found that autism prevalence rates were high in many nearby communities. That led to his Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research and Epidemiology Act, which was incorporated as Title I of the Children’s Health Act of 2000. That authorizes grants and contracts for the collection, analysis and reporting of data on autism and pervasive developmental disabilities.

A second law named for two boys with autism is Kevin and Avonte’s Law and is part of an omnibus bill to provide funding for critical educational programs to prevent wandering, as well as non-invasive locative tracking technology to assist individuals with autism and their caregivers.


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