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Obama’s Autism Agenda

Submitted by on 02/08/2009 – 10:30 pmOne Comment

Like many who work with individuals with autism, I grateful we finally have an advocate leading our government who prioritizes support for individuals with autism. On his first day as president, Barack Obama reconfirmed this commitment to individuals with autistic spectrum disorders. The White Houses’ agenda for individuals with disabilities specifically details four key elements in their plan for Americans with ASD, including:

  • Increased funding for research, treatment, screenings, public awareness, and support services.
  • Improving life-long services for people with ASD
  • Support funding for the Combating Autism Act
  • Universal screening for infants and two-year-olds

President Obama’s inauguration occasioned such optimism and hope for a true change in Washington, that even my most snarky colleagues have their fingers crossed for his success. Children in our region, from preschool through high school watched the event and recognized the significance. As a great skeptic myself, I am “cautiously optimistic” (to tread again on the tired cliché). Entropy and Washington machine will require considerable diplomacy, willpower, finesse, and shear stubbornness to overcome.

Of the four elements outlined in the President’s agenda, I believe there will be considerable support to fund research on the causes of autism as well as backing for universal screening. There are strong advocacy and lobbying groups behind this agenda who will now have a willing ear. Additionally, many in the public perceive autism as a disease that can be “cured,” rather than characteristics of an individual, who can be taught.

Those of us who teach, support and assist people with autism (both children and adults) will have to work hard for our seat at the table. It takes a lot of work, time, and money to help people with autism. So far, research for “the cure” has overshadowed research for effective teaching methods, both in dollars and public attention. Can President Obama broaden this agenda to include all four key elements? With our help, “Yes, We Can!”

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