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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Continue Autism Research

The Combating Autism Act, which devotes money to autism monitoring and research, would be renewed for $1.3 billion over five years under a bill introduced Monday by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, and Rep. Mike Doyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania.

The act, which was first signed into law in 2006 by President George W. Bush and was subsequently renewed in 2011 by President Barack Obama, is set to expire in September without congressional action. 

Over the eight years that the bill has been in place, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has steadily increased, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC's latest report, released in March, estimates that 1 in 68 children in 10 monitored states have the social and communication disorder, compared to 1 in 88 in 2008, and 1 in 110 in 2006. The CDC said that it did not know what was driving the change in prevalence rates, but said some of the increase could be due to the way children are identified, diagnosed, and served in their local communities. 

The bill contains a provision for the General Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency, to provide a report within two years on the needs of adults with autism spectrum disorder, and policy recommendations on how to ease the transition of adults with ASD from school-based to community-based supports. Advocacy groups of adults with autism have requested that the funding be reallocated to focus more on developing comprehensive services.

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