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Autism Bill Passed by U.S. Senate Committee

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A bill that could keep research about autism and other programs related to the condition going cleared a U.S. Senate committee last week.

The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act extends for three years legislation originally passed in 2006. Without a renewal, the law expires at the end of this month.

Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., cosponsor of the renewal bill, said the original law led to:

•the discovery of improved methods for autism screening,

•the identification of several autism susceptibility genes,
•the development of clinical guidelines and new treatments for medical conditions commonly associated with autism,
•the creation of interventions for children with autism, and
•training in and dissemination of best practices in screening, diagnosis and treatment,

The other sponsors are Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

The Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee passed the bill last week.

An average of about 1 in 110 American children have an autism spectrum disorder. The bill proposes $231 million in spending on autism-related research over three years, preserving spending levels set in the original law.

A number of organizations support the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and the Autism Society, and Autism Speaks. But the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other groups oppose the proposal because of its focus on children and the small devotion of resources to individuals diagnosed with autism.

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