The Autism CARES Act (otherwise known as the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act) is the 2019 expansion and reauthorization of the 2006 Combating Autism Act.
The act has improved government funding and support of autism research and the development of tools and resources for autistic people and their families.
This article will review what the Autism CARES Act covers, who qualifies for the act, and why the act was needed, as well as other important information that affected individuals need to know.
What is the Autism CARES Act 2019?
The Autism CARES Act 2019 has provided a source of support and stability for the autism community. It was signed into law on September 30th, 2019 with the intention of providing and supporting the following:
- An increase in annual authorized federal budget in autism-related spending to $369.7 million through the year 2024
- Expansion of government focus into research on the entire lifespan of autistic individuals
- Requirement of a report to Congress on the health and well-being of individuals along the autism spectrum who may be a part of research efforts
- Reauthorization of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)
○ This organization gives advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services as to which autism-related activities should be implemented, supports the exchange of resources and information between member organizations, and conducts activities designed to increase awareness of autism.
- Programs and research grants that will benefit the autistic community
- Development of treatment and management options for individuals along the autism spectrum
Since its inception, the Autism CARES Act has provided a significant amount of support to autistic individuals and their families. Some of the most notable accomplishments already achieved through the support of this act include:
- Reliable autism diagnoses for children between 18-24 months
- Identification of common comorbidities
- Establishment of genetic causes and medications for these causes
- Improved understanding of all causes of autism
- Encouragement of early career autism researchers to receive education
- The determination that early detection and intervention is absolutely essential
The Autism CARES Act helps provide the following services to the community of autistic individuals and their families:
- Creation and support of recreational and social activities for autistic individuals and their families and loved ones
- Nutritional support services
- Safety improvements and measures for autistic individuals
- Behavioral support in various forms
- Improved healthcare due to more informed physicians and providers
Why was the bill needed?
The first version of the Autism CARES Act was enacted in 2006 in response to a nationwide need for additional financial and governmental support in the “war” against autism.
It was reenacted again in 2012, 2014, and then finally in 2019 for the final and current version. The Autism CARES Act 2019 specifically focuses on support of ASD individuals of all ages and places along the spectrum.
It also intends to provide more funding toward low-income areas where autism organizations may have minimal support, as well as providing support to families from diverse backgrounds who may have lower income.
Autism legislation is essential to ensure funding and human resources for children and adults with autism.
Because ASD individuals are less likely to have access to adequate healthcare, education, and fulfilling social opportunities, it is vital that these people, their families, and caring providers have government support.
When autistic children and adults have access to quality resources and care, they are more likely to succeed and be able to life happy lives, which improves not only the lives of everyone around them, but also the general quality of society as a whole.
The Autism CARES Act 2019 supports numerous autism programs and organizations across the United States. Below is a brief description of 4 well-known autism-related organizations that have benefited from the Autism CARES Act.
Autism Speaks is one of the largest and most prominent autism organizations in America. From research to support groups, the organization aims to support the autistic community in as many high-quality ways as possible. The mission at Autism Speaks includes:
- Increasing understanding and acceptance of individuals with ASD
- Supporting life-enhancing research programs and breakthroughs
- Improving and increasing the frequency of early childhood ASD screening and treatment intervention
- Easing the transition to adulthood for autistic individuals
- Securing and ensuring access to autism-related information and resources throughout life for people with ASD
Autism Speaks was one of the most notable supporters of the Autism CARES Act. They have location chapters across the United States, including in the states of California, Georgia, Texas, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Kansas, Missouri, and more.
Another major supporter and beneficiary of the Autism CARES Act, the Autism Society of America is a reputable resource and support network for individuals with ASD as well as for their families. The Autism Society is one of the only autism-related organizations in the USA that has member-elected autistic individuals serving on its board of directors, giving it a unique perspective on autism that benefits the entire community.
The Autism Society is dedicated to providing inclusive communities, advocacy, access to resources and information, grants for new research into autism, and raised awareness about autism. Its affiliate network is one of the largest in the country and is therefore also one of the most available resources to the autistic community.
The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) is a leader in applying research to actively help individuals with ASD and their loved ones. The organization believes that groundbreaking is just that — groundbreaking — but only when it is understood fully and applied correctly. Thus, the OAR is committed to pursuing new, valuable research, as well as to translating that research into something that everyone can understand and apply to their own lives.
Though the OAR is a relatively new organization since it was founded in 2001, it has quickly become a prominent source of support in the ASD community. Research that is spearheaded by this organization is supported by the Autism CARES Act 2019 via funding and increased awareness toward the cause.
The National Autism Association, otherwise known as the NAA, is an organization based in Rhode Island with a national reach when it comes to care and supportive resources. The NAA is focused on achieving its mission to help and support the autistic community by dividing its activities into 6 main divisions:
- Direct tools
- Thoughtful awareness
By creating these distinct divisions, the NAA has been able to develop valuable research projects that have led to improved education and more effective tools. The support groups run by this organization provide hope for families and individuals and community awareness inside and outside of the ASD community. The NAA team is also available to advocate for ASD individuals in need.
How do I qualify for the Autism CARES Act?
Any individual of any age with diagnosed ASD will qualify to receive the benefits and support provided by the Autism CARES Act.
One of the significant changes that this iteration of the act made was to include the adult autistic community in research and support efforts, meaning that adults with autism spectrum disorder may also receive the benefits of the Autism CARES Act.
You do not need to do anything to qualify to receive these benefits. All members of the autistic community are eligible.
Who introduced the Autism CARES Act?
Representative Christopher H. Smith was the one to sponsor and introduce the Autism CARES Act of 2019. He is a New Jersey Republican of District 4 who has served in 21 US Congresses since 1981. The Congressman became involved with supporting autism-related organizations and autistic individuals in 1997 after meeting Bobby and Billy Gallagher, New Jersey parents of two autistic children. Rep. Smith and the Gallaghers continue to work together today to improve support for autistic individuals, especially those who have aged out of the system.
Over 35 non-governmental organizations have supported the Autism CARES Act, including the National Council on Severe Autism, the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, and the Autism Society of America, among others.
Is the Autism CARES Act still in effect today?
Yes. The Autism CARES Act 2019 will be in effect through 2024. It has been in effect since 2006, though it has undergone 3 reenactments since then. All the benefits of the act will remain in place until 2024, when the bill may be reenacted again.
We hope this article answered any questions you may have about the Autism CARES Act.
If you are looking for aba therapy for your autistic child in the Atlanta area contact us today.