Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Autism Issue Makes Ripple in Presidential Race As Clinton Promises to Spend $700 Million Per Year

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, a front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, last week issued a plan to help children and families affected by autism. The plan calls for spending $700 million per year to expand research, identify treatments, expand access to services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and provide autism-specific training for teachers.

While some other candidates do address autism in their campaign literature and remarks (read on below), Clinton's proposal is the most detailed of any of the major presidential candidates I could find, and follows her filing a bill in March 2007 with Republican Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado to increase access to support services for Americans with autism. (See "Senators Clinton and Allard Unveil Proposal to Expand Autism Services," in the Autism Bulletin archives.)

You can read a press release about Clinton's plan here. Both the Clinton-Allard bill and this plan—issued during this white-hot period leading up to the Iowa causes and New Hampshire primary in early January—include similar ideas around the same broad themes: expanding access to autism services for people who need them, from children to adults; spending more to understand what happens when someone has autism and why diagnoses are on the rise; generating more consensus around evidence-based effective treatments for autism.

Notably, Clinton calls for providing grants to states to increase programs and services for adults.

What Other Candidates Are Saying About Autism

A number of candidates who serve in Congress have records on autism that relate to the landmark 2006 passage of the Combating Autism Act, which received broad support. In fact, Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, was the co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. You can read more about his work on that law here and see more coverage of that landmark law here.

Dodd and other Democratic candidates including John Edwards, the former North Carolina Senator and vice presidential candidate; Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, include their ideas about helping people with autism in their health care reform plans. Some quotes follow:

From the John Edwards campaign blog, Nov. 26:

We need to find the causes so we can help protect our children. The National Institutes of Health have concluded that childhood vaccines are not the cause, but many families are not convinced. As president, I will double funding for autism research, issue an all-hands-on deck challenge and follow the results wherever the science takes us.

We also need to take better care of children affected today. My plan for universal health care, guaranteed coverage of autism care in Medicaid and private insurance, and better investments in special education and home health workers will assist families to support and treat children with autism and help children, and adults, reach their full potential.

We should also invest more in recruiting, training and paying sufficiently teachers, therapists, psychologists and others working in the special education field. It's time to finally get on a path to fully funding special education.

From the Barack Obama campaign's health care plan:

Support Americans with Autism. More than one million Americans have autism, a complex neurobiological condition that has a range of impacts on thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. As diagnostic criteria broaden and awareness increases, more cases of autism have been recognized across the country. Barack Obama believes that we can do more to help autistic Americans and their families understand and live with autism. He has been a strong supporter of more than $1 billion in federal funding for autism research on the root causes and treatments, and he believes that we should increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to truly ensure that no child is left behind.

More than anything, autism remains a profound mystery with a broad spectrum of effects on autistic individuals, their families, loved ones, the community, and education and health care systems. Obama believes that the government and our communities should work together to provide a helping hand to autistic individuals and their families.

From Bill Richardson's health care proposal:

First of all I am for strongly increased research on autism. The number of children in this country affected by autism is just staggering. [1 in every 150 children] Comprehensive and universal access to health care is part of the solution. I fought for increased funding in New Mexico for outreach, education, treatment and awareness. This is something that I have been talking about on the campaign trail everyday and it will be a priority in my administration.

From Christopher Dodd's health care plan:

Under the Dodd Plan, every child in America will have guaranteed health insurance equivalent to the health coverage Members of Congress have for their children. All children will have access to preventive health screenings including vision, hearing, autism, and other neurological disorders.

Where Are The Republicans?

I researched the online campaign literature and recent press coverage for Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor; Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. With the exception of a haircut fundraiser that Huckabee attended for autism in New Hampshire, and a Romney campaign volunteer in Colorado who has done some charity work for autism, I couldn't find a mention of autism anywhere.

That doesn't mean it's not there, so if you know of someone in any of these campaigns, write to me or submit a comment at the end of this post. It could just mean that autism hasn't risen to any level of importance in the Republican race. Health care is present, though. Mitt Romney is running on his bringing health coverage to all in Massachusetts. Ron Paul is a doctor. In the past, Mike Huckabee has been on a mission to make citizens lose weight.

Noted: I couldn't find anything on the websites of two other Democrats, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

Haircut Footnote

Four candidates have taken up a "$400 haircut challenge" for charity, from the father of an autistic child in New Hampshire. Here's an item from the Autism Society of America's website:

Representative Dennis Kucinich made a campaign stop for autism on November 20. The presidential candidate, a democrat from Ohio, was the third politician to take up New Hampshire hair stylist David Holden on his challenge to get a $400 haircut with all proceeds going to ASA.

Though the challenge was inspired by candidate John Edwards’ high-end haircuts that appeared on campaign statements in April, Holden said the challenge isn’t meant as a dig just an opportunity to help a good cause. Holden is the owner of Hair Biz salon in Concord, and the father of a 12-year-old with autism.

Kucinich is the third to take up the challenge. Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee have also participated.

Also see:

Bush Vetoes Domestic Spending Bill That Includes Autism Research, Education Funds


Anonymous said...

You asked where the Republicans are on the autism issue.

I asked the same thing when Bush vetoed a bill that would federally ban the use of thimerasol from all vaccines. This after promising to do so in his 04 bid for re-election.

So believe me when it comes to politicians of any party; I will believe it when I see them doing something about it.

As to those republicans currently running Ron Paul is the only one who believes that forced immunizations should not be allowed. Will this be enough to stem the epidemic? Probably not with his other plans for the
environment and the reduction of the do nothing agencies (hopefully the CDC and FDA are on his hit list) within the federal hierarchy it is a start. Which is more than any politician can brag about.

Remember Hilary was a big supporter of being vaccinated by 2 during Bills presidency his first term in office. So needless to say I don't necessarily believe or support her at this point.

Unknown said...


I have read from one weisenberg
from florida whose studies showed
a 250 percent rise in ASD in
children vaccinated with thiomersal
used as a preservative.Can you verify this conclusion?Also what
is your response to newer modalities of treatment in the
horizon like deep brain stimulation
for ASDs and autistics?I too am
selfadvocating for the cause of ASDs and it is heartening to know
about funds being sanctioned for
autism research.