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Congressional Hearing on Autism

The following is a summation of the congressional hearing on the rising rates of autism that took place November 29, 2012. The hearing is available in its entirety in the C-SPAN Library here. As a reference guide, the time of certain remarks will be highlighted at the end of important statements within this report. The times indicate when the statement is made within the C-SPAN video of the congressional hearing.

A congressional hearing took place on November 29, 2012 to discuss the alarming rise of incidence of autism spectrum disorders in our country. Members of congress gathered expert testimony from two panels. The first panel consisted of Dr. Alan Guttmacher- National Institute of Health Child & Human Development Director and Dr. Coleen Boyle- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Birth Defects & Developmental Disabilities Director who provided expert testimony and answered the questions proposed by the Congressional committee to the best of their knowledge. Bob Wright- co-founder of Autism Speaks, Scott Badesch- President and Chief Operating Officer of Autism Society, Mark Blaxill- Government Affairs Committee Chairman of SafeMinds, Bradley McGarry- Asperger Initiative Coordinator at Mercyhurst University, Michael John Carley- executive director of Global & Regional Syndrome Partnership, and Ari Ne’eman- President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, encompassed the second panel of experts. Each of these experts gave 5-minute testimony that covered various topics regarding the increase of autism diagnosis across the nation.

According to the opening statement of Rep. Darrell Issa, the Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman:1

The oversight committee exists to secure two fundamental principles. First, Americans have a right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent. And second, Americans deserve an efficient and effective government that works for them…Our solemn obligation is to hold government accountable to tax payers, because tax payers have a right to know what they get from their government…this is our mission.

This statement set the tone for the rest of the proceedings as members of Congress attempted to extract pertinent information concerning the rise in ASD prevalence from the first panel of autism experts. Congress made it clear that advancements have been made in regards to autism in the past decade to promote awareness, achieve earlier and more accurate diagnosis, to help relieve some of the financial burden placed on families with individuals on the autism spectrum through legislation, and to make proven treatments more accessible to the families who need it, but in the challenging words of Rep. Elijah Cummings “…even with this progress there is still more to learn, there is still more to do.”1 This sentiment seemed to be shared by the members of the hearing and the audience of advocates and family members affected by this disorder who attended the hearing. The bulk of this report will address some of the major points of the congressional hearing, including: