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ASAN Announces Opposition to Menendez-Enzi-Brown Autism Legislation


Community group says Combating Autism Act Extension would lock in place “an unacceptable status quo”

Washington, DC – May 26, 2011 – The autism community responded negatively today to a bill introduced today by Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Enzi (R-WY) and Brown (R-MA) to re-authorize the Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006 for three additional years. Critics charged that, while well intentioned, the legislation would freeze in place flawed programs, ignore needed program reforms and fail to deliver on the pressing need for more services for individuals on the autism spectrum across the lifespan. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), the leading national advocacy group run by and for adults on the autism spectrum, issued a statement opposing the newly introduced legislation.

“While we respect the good intentions of the co-sponsors and value their interest in autism legislation, passing a 3-year extension of the current unacceptable status quo would do real harm to Autistic people and our families,” said ASAN President Ari Ne’eman, who also serves as a public member on the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), a body created by the initial Combating Autism Act (CAA), “This legislation would keep in place a status quo without services, without consideration of the needs of adults and without inclusion of self-advocates. We urge Members of Congress to oppose any long term extension without needed program reforms.”

The initial Combating Autism Act (CAA), which is scheduled to expire on September 30th of this year, was crafted without the involvement of Autistic people, the target population being served by the legislation. Additionally, its provisions focused on research and young children rather than services and children and adults on the autism spectrum. Many self-advocates also find the language of the act offensive and out of step with the mainstream of disability policy.

In an action alert released by the Network, statistics were cited from an IACC report released last month on where autism research dollars were being spent. “According to the recently released IACC Research Portfolio, less than one percent of autism research dollars spent in 2009 went to research relating to adults while only three percent went to research about improving services, supports and education,” stated the action alert released on the morning of the legislation’s introduction.

“Another three years of bad autism policy is not a good idea,” said Dora Raymaker, an Autistic adult and ASAN Board Member living in Portland, Oregon. “If the CAA is to be extended at all, it needs to be done in collaboration with autistic individuals. We deserve to be recognized as the key stakeholders in policy which affects our lives.”

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