AS SENATE AUTHORIZES NEW FUNDING FOR AUTISM, SCHUMER VISITS RENOWNED WILDWOOD SCHOOL TO URGE HOUSE TO DO SAME SO BILL CAN BECOME LAW
Senator, Joined By Leading Autism Researchers And Families Affected By the Autistic Spectrum, Announces the Passage of Senate Legislation Funding Autism Research, Education
Schumer Pushes House to Vote on Bipartisan Combating Autism Act, Which Would Provide $860 Million In New Funding
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer toured the Capital Region’s Wildwood School, a renowned school for students between the ages of 3 to 21 with neurological impairments, complex learning disabilities, autism and other neurologically-based developmental disorders and announced the Senate's unanimous approval of the Combating Autism Act, which would authorize $860 million over five years to increase and coordinate federal autism research and education. Late last Thursday, the bill unanimously passed the Senate. Now Schumer will push the House of Representatives to do the same so that the bill can become a law. The Combating Autism Act, would authorize $860 million over five years to increase and coordinate federal research and education about autism. Nationwide, autism has a tremendous impact on the lives of children and their families. The rate of autism diagnoses has grown in the past few decades, with 1 out of every 166 children now being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
“Autism is a nationwide epidemic that has lived in the shadows for too long,” Schumer said. “The Wildwood School and facilities like it across the country help thousands of children and their families every year cope with the devastating affects of autism, but they need more help. Our bill would not only provide critical funds to schools and other organizations as they help families affected by autism receive counseling and education, but would also give public and private researchers the tools they need to find a cure for this terrible disease.”
Wildwood Programs began in 1966 when a group of parents frustrated with the lack of services for their children with complex learning disabilities, autism and other developmental disabilities decided to work together to create a new program. Today, Wildwood Programs provides a comprehensive continuum of resources including education, employment services, residential services, recreation, counseling or service coordination. Working collaboratively with families, Wildwood Programs empowers and enables children and adults with neurologically based learning disabilities, autism and other developmental disorders to live independent, productive and fulfilling lives. They employ 650 people and serve about 800 children, adolescents, adults and their families in Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Columbia, Greene, Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Warren, Washington, and Otsego Counties.
While Wildwood Programs provides outstanding services to its students, in general there are not enough resources for children with special needs in New York State. 1,700 kids a year are placed at facilities outside New York State, at a cost of $2 million to $3 million a year.
In addition, studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention suggest that the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders has significantly increased, from approximately four in 10,000 children born in the early 1990s to as many as one in every 166 children born today. Despite its strikingly high prevalence, autism research remains one of the least funded areas of medical research by both public and private sources. Currently, the causes of autism are unknown and there are no specific medical treatments for autism, or a cure. Furthermore, physicians have no blood test or diagnostic scan that can definitively diagnose autistic spectrum disorders.
The Combating Autism Act would create a national education program for doctors and the public about autism, provide grants for statewide autism screening, create a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) center of excellence for autism research, and create a nationwide data clearinghouse. Additionally, the bill would increase the collaboration of individuals and groups who are working on autism, extend the activities of the Autism Coordinating Committee that manages the efforts of various federal health agencies, and require the NIH to create a strategic plan to combat autism.
Schumer was joined today by Joe Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Board and parent of an autistic child and Pamela Karathomas, Vice President of the Board for the Albany chapter of the Autism Society of America.