The commitment to autism research by the people of the United States will continue at a high level. The Combating Autism Act has been reauthorized following the passage of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act by the legislature and President Obama’s signing it into law.
Every single day, I am proud and awed to be working for our President. But, some days simply take the cake. Just a few short months ago, I had a couple of those days. On April 1st, President Obama issued the first ever Presidential Proclamation to mark World Autism Awareness Day. Later that month, I had another special moment when Valerie Jarrett and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the President and his administration fully supported reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act (CAA). As a father of a child on the autism spectrum, these were extraordinarily meaningful moments to me.
Today, President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the CAA. I was once again reminded of the honor that it is to be working for a President who gets it — he knows that persons on the autism spectrum are at the heart of this issue.
I find the reauthorization and the entire process quite interesting. There wasn’t the testimony involved in the first Combating Autism Act. While there was certainly a push to get the reauthorization passed, there was a lack support from many organizations, from parent-led groups pushing vaccine causation to self-advocate groups. There doesn’t appear to be much, if any, discussion on vaccines. The CAA in 2006 even had some senators mention vaccines in the congressional record while discussing the passing of the act.
And this is something that intrigues me. I’ve always worried that the CAA was passed, at least in part, based on the perception that perhaps vaccines had a role in autism prevalence. Perhaps some legislative guilt at play. I worried that in 2011, with so much more known about the fact that MMR and thimerosal did not cause an autism epidemic, that congress might let autism research drop to a lower priority. The CAA had to stand on what was accomplished and what the prospects looked like for future research. In many ways, that’s a tough sell. Research doesn’t happen overnight. Even in 5 years. But, congress and the president are supporting the effort into the future. In these economic times, and in an election year, this was not a trivial accomplishment.
The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) will continue into the future. Congress is authorized to appropriate funds into the future.