President Barack Obama today signed legislation that will allow research about autism to continue for the next three years.
The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 will provide $231 million in spending on autism-related research, preserving spending levels set in the original law, which was passed in 2006.
The original law would have expired today, and the law's fate was in limbo until the House passed the legislation this week.
The research would build on discoveries made since 2006, including improved methods for autism screening and the identification of several autism susceptibility genes.
About 1 in 110 American children have an autism spectrum disorder. Before the 2006 legislation, the federal government devoted far less to autism research. In the 1990s, autism was far less common, note parents, including Bobbie and Bill Gallagher of New Jersey. Two of their three children have autism. When their children were born, the rate of autism was about 5 in 10,000 people.
A number of organizations support the law, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the Autism Society, and Autism Speaks. But the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other groups oppose it because of its focus on children and the small devotion of resources to helping individuals diagnosed with autism.