By Autism Society

Bethesda, Md. (February 25, 2013) – With the sequester deadline just days away, autism advocates have strengthened their call for Congress to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and their families. The Autism Society, the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots autism organization, on Thursday convened its national network of individuals with autism, families and advocates for its second annual Afternoon on the Hill. Participants urged Congress to address priority issues facing nearly 2 million people affected by autism in the United States.

Autism Society members from 25 states called on their representatives to spare Medicaid from budget cuts and take steps to ensure the Affordable Care Act will cover the needs of individuals with autism in each state. Advocates also promoted legislation to limit restraint and seclusion in schools and help families access services through tax-free savings accounts.

“With 1 in 88 individuals currently affected by autism, and 46,000 families estimated to start their journeys with autism this year, the Autism Society is calling on lawmakers to act now to create a more efficient system for accessing services,” said Scott Badesch, Autism Society president. “It is the goal of the Autism Society to address the growing needs of individuals with autism despite a shortage of resources. This is possible by eliminating duplication of administrative costs and making funding for services a national priority.”

The Autism Society believes in the following issues:

1. Medicaid and SSI must be safe from budget cuts during talks about the debt ceiling and sequester actions. Budget cuts to Medicaid should only occur at the expense of administrative costs that ultimately will not affect services to individuals. 

2. The Keeping Students Safe Act would protect children from abuse of restraint and seclusion.

3. The ABLE Act would help more families access services by establishing tax-free savings accounts for individuals with developmental disabilities.

4.  Each state’s plan for implementing the Affordable Care Act must address the health needs of individuals with autism.

5.  Service funding for autism support must not be cut at the expense of increased support for research.

Beth Gross of Autism Society West Virginia had been meeting with Rep. David McKinley (R- W. Va) consistently for a year, and met with his staff again during the Afternoon on the Hill. The focus of their work is to ensure more families are served through the system by implementing reforms that would eliminate unnecessary administrative spending and ensure seamless transition of services across state lines.

 “As a mother, I believe it to be imperative that our elected officials understand what it truly means to be the parent or protector of a special needs child. They must see our faces and hear our stories,” said Gross. “I am so grateful to Rep. McKinley and his staff for engaging in such meaningful dialogue; for opening their minds and hearts to the needs of our community.  We have uncovered remarkable allies who are prepared to not only improve the current climate but also the world that we are leaving to our children.”

“I continue to work with families impacted by autism to learn about their daily struggles and what issues and concerns they face,” said Rep. McKinley.  “It’s our hope that Congress will be able to develop policies to help these same families and thousands of others like them deal with autism.  I’m pleased with the relationship we have with the Autism Society as we both work toward the same goals.”

About the Autism Society
The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy.