FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 30, 2006

As Senate Authorizes New Funding For Autism, Schumer Visits University Of Rochester’s Autism Program To Urge House To Do Same So Bill Can Become Law

Senator, Joined By Leading Researchers And Families Affected By the Autistic Spectrum, Announce Passage of Senate Legislation Funding Autism Research, Education

University Of Rochester Is One Of Eight Autism Research And Treatment Centers Nationwide Created By The Federal Government

Schumer Pushes House to Vote on Bipartisan Combating Autism Act, Which Would Provide $860 Mil

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today met with leaders of the University of Rochester’s renowned autism disorders program, where he 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. In early August, 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 create a national education program for both doctors and the public about autism, provide grants to states for autism screening, create a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) center of excellence for research on autism, and create a nationwide autism data clearinghouse. Additionally, the bill would facilitate the collaboration of individuals and groups who are working on autism, extend the activities of the Autism Coordinating Committee to manage the efforts of various federal health agencies, and require the NIH to create a strategic plan to combat 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 autistic spectrum disorder.

“Autism is a nationwide epidemic that has lived in the shadows for too long,” Schumer said. “The University of Rochester’s nationally-recognized autism programs help hundreds 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 developmental disorder.”

The University of Rochester is one of eight prestigious universities that are part of a national autism research and treatment network created by the federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), which was established by the Children’s Health Act of 2000. The IACC is made up of leaders of federal agencies involved in autism research and services, including five NIH institute directors. The University of Rochester’s autism programs also provide behavioral consultation, parent and staff training, and technical assistance to families, schools and developmental agencies. Recently the autism program has expanded to include research into the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

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 NIH center of excellence for research on autism, 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 efforts of various federal health agencies, and require the NIH to create a strategic plan to combat autism.

Schumer was joined today by Evan Nagel, and his mom Sharon. Evan is a senior at Brighton High School, and has been diagnosed with Asberger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Evan is applying for college, and the school is working with him on his college applications and entrance exams. Also joining Schumer will be Beth Bullen and her two sons who have been diagnosed with autism, Donald (9) and Paul (7). Beth is a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital, and credits early intervention and education programs with helping her children with their social skills. Also joining Schumer will be Dr. Susan Hyman of the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities and Dr. Patricia Rodier, Director of the Rochester's NIH Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism and Rochester’s NIH Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment Center.

###