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Published: Monday, 9/26/2011

Reauthorizing hope

Millions of American families affected by autism likely were relieved last week, when the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would renew the government’s commitment to fund autism research and treatment at current levels for three more years.

The Senate version is expected to be approved this week. President Obama has pledged to sign the measure.

The bipartisan House vote created more political drama than was necessary. The 2006 Combating Autism Reauthorization Act expires Friday. It has provided more than $1 billion for treatment and research. The reauthorization will provide $693 million during the next three years.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism afflicts 1 in every 110 children. The incidence among boys is 1 in 70.

But federal funding isn’t only for the 1.5 million Americans who have autism. Parents, relatives, friends, schools, churches, scouting organizations, and other groups serving autistic children also will benefit.

“Autism has been declared a public health emergency — doing nothing is not an option,” says Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group. Congress came perilously close to doing just that, but appears to have relented.

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