Autism (also termed autistic disorder or classical autism) is the most common of the ASDs. Other ASDs, as classified by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, include: pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger disorder, Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD). These five disorders make up the category “Pervasive Developmental Disorders” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). Rett syndrome and CDD are rare disorders and are not always included with the ASDs. (CDC prevalence studies cited above include data for autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, and PDD-NOS).
Autism is a complex developmental disability that affects the normal functioning of the brain, which results in developmental problems that hold back an afflicted individual’s ability to interact socially and limits the individual’s communication skills. Autistic children often are uninterested in their surroundings, may be unresponsive to others, apply their energy on repetitive, atypical behaviors such as rocking or twirling or show self-abusive behaviors such as biting or head-banging.
Autism and other ASDs are life-long afflictions that usually begin before age 3, and as such, require a lifetime of special care.
ASDS occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Boys are four times more likely to be afflicted with an ASD than girls.
The numbers are even more shocking when you examine the results from New Jersey. 1 in every 94 New Jersey children analyzed in the recent federally-funded study has an ASD. Based on that 2002 data, the prevalence rate of ASDs for boys in New Jersey is 1 in every 60.
Rep. Chris Smith’s Legislative Work on Autism Includes:
As a leading proponent of autism research in Congress, Smith has pushed for significant increases in funding to expand federal autism research and awareness programs by nearly 10 times the amount it was in the mid-1990’s. In 1995, NIH invested about $10.5 million into autism research. The estimated budget for autism research in FY06 is nearly 10 times that amount - $108 million. At the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autism funding has increased from $287,000 in 1995 to an estimated $15.1 million in 2006.
Smith authored a provision in Title I of the Children’s Health Act (PL 106-310) that created the Centers of Excellence in Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology. This provision of the law established not less than three regional centers of excellence to collect and analyze information on incidences and causes of autism and related developmental disabilities.
Smith authored a provision included in the Fiscal Year 2007 Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations Bill (H.R. 5631) that allocates $7.5 million into an Army research account for the sole purpose of improving treatment and intervention of children with autism. As many as 12,000 children in military families may have autism and their condition is made extremely difficult by the frequent changes of residences, schools and other variables that accompany military life. The DoD program will add specialized research to that already underway by medical, educational, healthcare and service professionals who serve the needs of the autism community. As a result, the DoD-directed research will not only help the approximately 12,000 military children currently affected by autism, but will also benefit the general autism population as new findings and techniques will be shared within the autism community as a whole.
Smith included two autism provisions in his Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007 (H.R. 2601). One provision directs the Secretary of State to conduct a study of the prevalence of autism among foreign service dependents, as well as the services available to those children. The second provision asks the Secretary to work with UNICEF to provide for a study of the incidence of autism worldwide. There have been no comprehensive studies of the worldwide incidence of autism.
Smith is Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of the Coalition for Autism Research and Education (CARE). The caucus currently includes over 160 members of the House and Senate who promote legislation to help families with autistic children and to increase autism research and awareness funding.
Smith recently signed on as the lead Republican co-sponsor of CARE Co-Chairman Mike Doyle’s legislation, the “Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act” (EPIAA). This important bill authorizes $350 million worth of additional treatment and support resources, increasing access to effective therapies and essential support services for people with autism.
Also in the 110th Congress, Smith introduced legislation to provide a refundable tax credit—up to $10,000 per teacher per year—for education and training expenses relating to autism spectrum disorders to increase the number of teachers with such expertise.
Smith led the fight to get the CDC and NIH to document incidents of autism in New Jersey.