Autism Legislation Lost In Committee on the Hill

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In case you haven't heard, this month is National Autism Awareness Month, and as such our elected officials on Capitol Hill have been diligent in expressing their desire to support those families who deal with Autism on a daily basis.  Autism was even given some face time during the 2008 Presidential elections.  President Obama even set aside a portion of his recommended budget for extended Autism research.  You would think it would be a high priority.  But it seems to have lost it's shine in Congress.  Perhaps it's because there are more pressing issues to deal with.  I will concede that while Autism can bankrupt a family with current support and educational methods, having all families bankrupt would be a worse scenario.Perhaps it is because Autism was a champion cry of on political party during the 2008 election, which ended up being the losing party.  I can't honestly accept that as a reason as those bills currently in Committee are spit evenly between both parties.  Partisan politics may be a problem in other areas of legislation, but not where Autism is concerned.Perhaps it is because the Autism community itself is divided.  Ah, there in lies the insidious truth.  Currently there are several schools of thought regarding the causes and treatment of Autism, with a lot of people coming up with some pretty wild ideas that have seen some anecdotal positive responses with little research to support the theories.  Because of this division in the community it is difficult to find a unified voice to get anything accomplished.  As such, we are easily conquered as a community by other more organized groups and concerns.  So what can we as a community do in order to unify?  Stop fighting amongst ourselves as our children grow up within a condition that can be worked through with basic services that are cost effective, reliable, and empowering for the family.  Instead we need to work with our legislators to come up with cost effective methods of providing the tools necessary to help our children.  I've posted before what I think would be ideal:  Resources provided by existing organizations supporting Autism students that are readily available for parents to utilize.  Parents will then be able to better support their children at home with the right tools and knowing what to do.  But it would need to be broken down in this method: 
  1. Provide an evaluation for the student, to determine what modules will be best to assist the student. 
  2. Provide modules that are flexible and independent of each other, which parents can use.  This includes instructions on how to teach, what to look for in success, and how to judge/evaluate success.
  3. Provide a central communication hub, either through phone, letters, email, or online forums, that will allow parents to share experiences in a confidential manner with those professionals, and get additional assistance or recommendations when needed.  
  4. Continue the process at regular intervals, to be best evaluated by the professionals.  
This method would be cost effective because the parents or caregivers of the children become the actual one on one instructors that autistic children need while still being in contact with a professional that can evaluate and maintain several parental groups in a given session.  They still work, no one loses their jobs, and more autistic children are getting the help they need.  It can also be close to real time with the use of various communication tools and social networking environments that currently exist.  Currently there are eight bills in the House and Senate that are related to Autism, some are more comprehensive than others, some more cost effective than others.  None that I have read so far seem to touch on the actual method of educating autistic children.  Instead it seems that the programs are designed to give the resources to the community, and let the community continue in their current method of pocket-support.  Hmm..  Perhaps it's time to contact the Secretary of Education and propose this plan to him, just to see where it would go.  Anyway, for a list of Autism Legislation currently in Congress and links to their status on GovTrack.us, they are below.  Let's hope they get out of committee soon, so that Congress can claim they did something during Autism Awareness Month rather than sit on their backsides.
BillStatusLast Action
H.R. 1878: Global Autism Assistance Act of 2009IntroducedApr 2, 2009
S. 819: Autism Treatment Acceleration Act of 2009IntroducedApr 2, 2009
H.R. 1707: Helping HANDS for Autism Act of 2009IntroducedMar 25, 2009
S. 706: Helping HANDS for Autism Act of 2009IntroducedMar 25, 2009
H.Con.Res. 96: Recognizing the importance of autism awareness, supporting efforts to increase funding for research into the causes and treatment of autism and to improve training and support for individuals with autism and those who care for individuals with autism.IntroducedApr 2, 2009
H.R. 1600: To amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for the treatment of autism under TRICARE.IntroducedMar 18, 2009
H.Res. 349: Expressing support for designation of April 2009 as "National Autism Awareness Month" and supporting efforts to devote new resources to research into the causes and treatment of autism and to improve training and support for individuals with autism and those who care for individuals with autism.IntroducedApr 21, 2009
H.R. 2051: To amend title 10, United States Code, to authorize extended benefits for certain autistic dependents of certain retirees.IntroducedApr 22, 2009