Wednesday, April 18, 2007

CDC Director Cites Autism as Urgent Concern, and Other News

Autism is an urgent priority for the Centers for Disease Control, according to director Dr. Julie Gerberding (pictured at left). Gerberding told a Senate panel on April 18 in Washington that she understands the frustrations of parents and families of people with autism spectrum disorders that there are not available "more answers about the causes and possible cures," she said, according to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (see article online here).

Gerberding also said: "The profound lifelong impact of autism spectrum disorders, tremendous costs to the affected individuals and their families, the lack of known causes or cures and concerns about the increased rates of diagnosis all make autism spectrum disorders one of our urgent realities."

The Journal-Constitution added:
"Although the CDC has been criticized by some autism activists and members of Congress, Gerberding said the Atlanta-based agency is best equipped to do the surveillance and research needed to understand and respond to the disorder."

Gerberding was speaking to the Senate panel while elsewhere in Washington, The Institute of Medicine was holding a special workshop on opportunities for researching environmental triggers for autism. The Institute website said it was expecting to set up space for an overflow crowd, based on its fully subscribed preregistration process.

For a preview of this autism-environment workshop, see here.


There was talk in the House this week about two bills:

Rep. Michael F. Doyle, D-Penn., filed HR 1881, an act "to improve support and services for individuals with autism and their families." Doyle, who is from the Pittsburgh area, filed the bill on April 17 with three co-sponsors, New York Democrat Eliot Engel, New Jersey Republican Christopher Smith and Mississippi Republican Charles "Chip" Pickering.

The bill would spend an estimated $350 million to improve services for people with autism and their families, according to an online report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. See the report here. While the newspaper doesn't cite a companion bill in the Senate, Doyle's proposal sounds like one unveiled last month by Senators Hillary Clinton and Wayne Allard. For more on that proposal, called The "Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act," click here.

Smith told the Post-Gazette he is optimistic that President Bush will support this kind of legislation.

In another piece of legislative news, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story cited above reported that two House members, Dave Weldon, a Florida Republican, and Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, planned to reintroduce a bill they filed last year to end what they call a conflict of interest at the Centers for Disease Control relating to vaccines: that the agency is responsible for both promoting vaccines and ensuring their safety, the newspaper said. The bill failed last year.

Pennsylvania Bill Would Require Insurers to Cover Autism Treatment

At the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania House Speaker Dennis J. O'Brien, who has an autistic nephew, told a gathering of several hundred autism advocates that he was pursuing "legislation that would require private health insurers to cover treatment" for autism spectrum disorders, the Associated Press reported. See the report here, via The AP's estimates suggest that when applying the latest CDC autism prevalence figures of 1 in 150 American children, that means approximately 560,000 children and young adults have autism.

Canada's Top Court Won't Hear Case Brought by Parents of Autistic Kids

A group of Ontario parents have been seeking court ordered support for behavioral therapies which in the United States is typically called ABA (applied behavior analysis) but in Canada is sometimes called IBI for intensive behavioral intervention. The Supreme Court of Canada said April 13 that it would not hear the parents' latest appeal in the case.

The Ontario Autism Coalition says on its home page that while the court would not hear the case, the advocates would continue to press for legislative relief to support these therapies under Canada's national health care plan.

Read press reports here on the court decision here in the Toronto Star and here from the Sarnia, Ontario Observer.

Also see:

Canadian Parliament Panel Urges New National Policy

1 comment:

BlueNight said...

The urgent concern is that it is seen as a disease. But enough Aspie Rights talk.

High-Functioning and Aspies need a social system that is geared toward them, where intelligent conversation and literacy are valued. The Internet used to be it, until skateboarder culture merged with gamer culture.

If it is such a concern, how about a school for autistics and Aspies, similar to schools for the deaf run by the deaf? I betcha the culture would soon come to resemble Hogwarts.