Mr. DEAL of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks on this legislation and to insert extraneous material.
Mr. DEAL of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to join Chairman Barton in support of S. 843, as amended, the Combating Autism Act of 2006. Although many of us would like to have done more sooner, the bill represents a positive step forward in addressing the serious problem of autism in the United States. The legislation focuses on expanding and coordinating autism research at the National Institutes of Health, monitoring the disorder and educating the public through programs at the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, as well as ensuring that citizens have a voice in the Federal Government's response to autism.
Leo Kanner first described autism in 1943 as a developmental disorder characterized by ``extreme autistic loneliness'' and ``an obsessional desire for the maintenance of sameness.'' Since the 1940s, we have learned much more about autism, including its diagnosis, traits, and possible treatments.
Data from several recent studies show that between two and six out of every 1,000 children fall within the definition of what is called autism spectrum disorder. That means that of the roughly 4 million children born in the United States each year, about 24,000 of these children will eventually be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Autism affects many aspects of a person's mental development, including social skills; speech, language and communication; repetitive behaviors and routines; and the other ways that children interact with the world. These children also often exhibit emotional problems, challenging behaviors, hyperactivity and other difficulties.
As a child with autism grows into adolescence, some of these behaviors are intensified. The teen suffering from autism may also suffer from depression related to their inability to interact normally with their peers.
All of these problems exert tremendous pressures on parents and siblings, who often must devote round-the-clock attention to a family member with autism.
Although there is no cure for autism, early detection and early intervention have shown promise in lessening the impact of the disorder and increasing a child's ability to have normal social interaction and functioning. Early intervention is a child's best hope for reaching his or her full potential.
Furthermore, research has shown that development disabilities like autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months; however, an estimated 50 percent of children with these disorders remain unidentified until they are 5 years old, missing critical opportunities to improve their functioning early on. Therefore, it is imperative that both parents and doctors caring for children learn the warning signs of autism and are familiar with the developmental milestones that each child should reach.
The legislation before us takes several steps to improve upon and expand educational and outreach activities that will alert the public on the warning signs for autism and the need for early screening and intervention. It will also strengthen biomedical research activities conducted at the National Institutes of Health looking into the causes, pathways and possible cures for autism spectrum disorder.
Finally, the legislation provides for public participation in decisions relating to the Federal response to the autism problem, allowing for greater transparency and accountability.
I am also pleased that many of the major groups and organizations representing autistic people and their families have chosen to support this important piece of legislation. The Autism Society of America, Cure Autism [Page: H8783]
Now, Autism Speaks and the Dan Marino Foundation are just a few of the many organizations that support the reforms in this bill.
Finally, I would like to thank the lead House sponsor of the Combating Autism Act, Mrs. Bono of California, for her efforts on behalf of autistic people and their families.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise in support of S. 843, the Combating Autism Act of 2006.
Today, many American children suffer from autism spectrum disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that between two in 1,000 to five in 1,000 children are classified as having an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Whether this increase is due to a true increase in prevalence or whether it is due to changes in assessment standards, it is clear that ASDs are the second most common serious developmental disability after mental retardation or intellectual impairment.
According to the CDC, autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disabilities characterized by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of atypical behaviors and interests. It is important that we treat common developmental disabilities, and especially autism, as conditions of urgent public health concern, and the Combating Autism Act of 2006 certainly moves in that direction.
Mr. Speaker, this bill would authorize the award of grants and contracts to establish centers of excellence on autism spectrum disorder and to collect, analyze and report State epidemiological data on autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. It would also provide culturally competent information on developmental disabilities to increase awareness of developmental milestones, promote disabilities research, encourage early screening and provide early diagnosis and interventions
for individuals diagnosed with such disabilities.
A major theme of the bill is coordination and planning. This bill would authorize a strategic plan to be developed and implemented to guide Federal efforts in autism spectrum disorder research. It would also authorize the designation of an interagency autism coordinating committee to coordinate HHS efforts concerning autism spectrum disorder, make recommendations concerning a strategic plan for autism, develop and update advances in research, and make recommendations regarding public participation
in the various autism programs.
The Combating Autism Act of 2006 has bipartisan support, and it has the support of numerous national, State and local autism-focused stakeholder organizations, including Autism Now, Autism Speaks, Cure Autism Now and the Autism Society of America.
The bill before us is an affirmative step toward addressing the serious health issue of autism spectrum disorders and toward ensuring all children are able to reach their full potential. I urge all of my colleagues to join me, along with these stakeholder groups, in supporting this potentially life-saving legislation.
I would also like to thank Representatives BONO and DEGETTE for all their hard work and dedication that they have devoted to this issue.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. DEAL of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I insert in the RECORD at this time two letters, one from the chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee and the response from the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee related to jurisdiction on this bill.
House of Representatives, Committee on Education and the Workforce,
Washington, DC, December 6, 2006.
Hon. JOE BARTON,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Commerce,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: I am writing to confirm our mutual understanding with respect to the consideration of S. 843, the Combating Autism Act of 2006. As you are aware, `Sec. 399BB. Autism Education, Early Detection, And Intervention' requires the Secretary of Education to collaborate with the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Service in the provision of autism related services through the Head Start Act, the Early Start Act, the Child Care Development Act, the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act, the Child Nutrition Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. This provision and these acts fall within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Given the importance of moving this bill forward promptly, I do not intend to object to its consideration in the House. However, I do so only with the understanding that this procedure should not be construed to prejudice my Committee's jurisdictional interest and prerogative in S. 843 or any other similar legislation and will not be considered as precedent for consideration of matters of jurisdictional interest to my Committee in the future.
Finally, I ask that you include a copy of our exchange of letters in the Congressional Record during the consideration of this bill. If you have questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to call me. I thank you for your consideration.
Howard P. ``Buck'' McKeon,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE,
Washington, DC, December 6, 2006.
Hon. HOWARD P. ``BUCK'' MCKEON,
Chairman, Committee on Education and the Workforce,
DEAR CHAIRMAN MCKEON: Thank you for your recent letter regarding the consideration of S. 843, the Combating Autism Act of 2006. I agree that provisions in `Sec. 399BB. Autism Education, Early Detection, And Intervention' fall within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.
I appreciate your willingness to allow this bill to move forward today; and I agree that this procedure in no way diminishes or alters the jurisdictional interest of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. I will include your letter and this response in the Congressional Record during consideration of the bill on the House floor.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 5 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Mrs. Bono), who is the primary sponsor of this legislation.
Mrs. BONO. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from Georgia for yielding me the time to speak on this most important piece of legislation. I would also like to commend the members of our leadership and thank them for allowing a vote on this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the Combating Autism Act of 2006. This historic and monumental piece of legislation is a critical first step towards addressing the unknown causes of autism by providing record levels of research funding and support for other services.
Today, one in 166 individuals is diagnosed with autism. This alarming statistic proves that autism does not discriminate based on race or gender.
As a longstanding supporter of the autism community, I have had the opportunity to speak with many national organizations, individuals and families who have been personally impacted by this disease. The selfless service that is provided by parents, siblings, extended family and other caregivers is unwavering and is unending.
While we have made significant strides since the identification of the disease in 1943, the task that lies before us requires the support of all involved parties and I am proud to have witnessed the cooperation of many groups that span the autism community. They banded together in an unprecedented manner, and their collective voice resonated with the Congress.
On May 18, 2005, it was my privilege to introduce the House version of this legislation. More than 240 of my colleagues joined Representative DeGette and myself in support of autism research. Today, I hope that they will join me in voicing their support of the Combating Autism Act of 2006.
I would like to commend Chairman Joe Barton, who has been a steadfast supporter of the autism community, and Senators Rick Santorum and Christopher Dodd for their commitment and action to support the autism community.
I would like to give special acknowledgement to former Congressman Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania, who throughout the process has remained a tireless champion of this cause.
I would also like to thank the hardworking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee staff, Randy Pate and Ryan Long; of the Senate HELP Committee, Shana Christrup and Erin Bishop; Jennifer Vesey of Senator Santorum's office; Jim Fenton of Senator Dodd's staff; and Jed Perry of [Page: H8784]
Congresswoman DeGette's office for their commitment on this piece of legislation.
Finally, I would like to thank my personal staff, both past and present, Katherine Martin and Taryn Nader, for their hard work and tireless efforts on the Combating Autism Act of 2006.
As the 109th Congress comes to a close, we have an opportunity to pass this meaningful and life-changing piece of legislation. I will proudly cast my vote in support, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.
Again, I thank the chairman.
Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, today I rise in strong support of the Combating Autism Act. As a member of the Congressional Coalition for Autism Research and Education, and as the uncle of a little boy with autism, I am well-acquainted with the issues faced by families of children with this disorder.
I have been struck by the rapid increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism in the last decade, both nationally and in my home State of Rhode Island, and while we do not yet know for certain what causes autism, we do know that early intervention does make a difference in treatment.
Mr. Speaker, we must commit ourselves to providing parents, pediatricians, early childhood educators and all those who have contact with very young children the resources and training to identify children who need help early enough to begin effective interventions. The Combating Autism Act is a tremendous step toward an effective national policy of autism research, screening, intervention and education.
Like all children, those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders are individuals with unique talents and abilities. Across the Nation, special education teachers, psychologists and others are working hard to bring these gifts and talents to light and help these children realize their potential.
I urge all of my colleagues to support these professionals in their noble work, and these families in their time of need, by voting in favor of the Combating Autism Act. It is the right thing to do. It's an exciting piece of legislation, and I look forward to its passage.
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from New Jersey for yielding.
I rise in strong support of S. 843, the Combating Autism Act of 2006. I also take this opportunity to commend and congratulate Mr. Tim Muri, president and CEO of Easter Seals of Chicago, as well as the University of Illinois Medical Center, and all of those who support this venture which I am about to mention.
On October 30, 2006, Easter Seals, with the support of many in the Chicagoland area, broke ground for a brand new therapeutic school and center for autism research in the Illinois Medical Center District. This bill, S. 843, will greatly enhance the work of this school and other entities across the country.
So I simply support not only the development of this brand new school but certainly the legislation which is going to enhance the work of those combating autism across the country.
I thank the gentleman again for yielding.
Mr. PICKERING. Mr. Speaker, I rise in proud support of this legislation. I want to thank you and your leadership; I want to thank Congressman Pallone, Congresswomen DEGETTE and BONO, all of the coalitions that have been great advocates for helping increase the research, the funding, the exploration, and the discovery of what we know today about autism. I want to thank my friend RICK SANTORUM and commend him for his dogged support and championing of this effort. And,
I want to talk a little bit about today what we know about autism, how pervasive it is, how many children it affects, and what it means for us as a Nation and for our families.
One in 166 children is diagnosed with autism. For boys, and I am the father of five sons, one in 104 boys is on the autism spectrum; 67 children per day are diagnosed. A new case is diagnosed almost every 20 minutes. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes, or cancer combined. It is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. and it costs our Nation over $90 billion per year and it is a figure expected to double over the next decade.
Yet, autism receives less than 5 percent of the research funding available when it is one of the most prevalent diseases spreading across our country.
But the good news is we are learning, we are discovering, we are understanding much better today. We are much better able to detect, understand, identify. It is much more possible to have early intervention and the therapies and the types of treatments that help young children maximize the gifts and the talents that they have.
I want to say as someone who has met with many of the families, and all of our families have children that have been affected by this, I want to say it is not only a disability but it is also a gift. And it really is. For those of us who know and who have personal involvement, there are special angels among us with great tremendous gifts that come from autism. And what we want to do, what I want to do is to make sure that these gifts, these abilities that are special, unique, distinct, wonderful
opportunities, to really maximize the things that children with autism can bring to all of us. And with this legislation today, I believe that we will maximize the understanding, we will maximize the gifts of our children who have autism, and we will make sure that their gifts are shared with the rest of the Nation and their contributions in science and math and reading
and all the different areas where they may have gifts but also great struggles, that we can overcome those, that we can meet this challenge, and that the understanding of this disease and the treatments that are made available because of this legislation will make a difference in the lives of countless families and countless children. So I rise today in proud support.
I want to thank all of those who made it possible and the Members who have worked. CHRIS SMITH and the Autism Caucus deserve special praise for raising the awareness and building the coalitions within Congress and organizing the outside groups to make this day possible. I am proud that before we leave this Congress, we do not leave this job undone. And I thank Chairman Deal for all of his hard work in making this possible, and Chairman Barton, the ranking members, and
all those who worked, especially our staff. May God bless this effort, and thank you very much.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I would again urge that we pass this very important legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. DEAL of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, as we close, I would simply reiterate what some others have said, thanking all of those within the Congress itself who have brought this bill to this point and hopefully to a finalization and sent to the President.
Autism is an affliction on our children, and there are many answers that people want and this will help us try to find those answers. But this is not the end of the journey. Those who are committed to this cause will continue their efforts here in the halls of Congress, hopefully in the research halls throughout our country. This is a worthwhile step in the very proper direction, and I would urge my colleagues to adopt this resolution.