Senator John ThuneIn an effort to support individuals and families that are affected by autism, the Autism Society of America has designated April as National Autism Awareness Month. Autism is a developmental neurological disability that impacts social development and communication skills.
According to a 2007 report by the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in 150 American children are born with autism and 1.5 million Americans are believed to have some form of autism. Based on the latest statistics, boys are roughly four times more likely to be impacted by autism than girls. Part of what makes autism so challenging for families and policymakers alike is that researchers have yet to definitively conclude what causes it.
In 2006, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Combating Autism Act, which I was proud to cosponsor. This legislation expands research, screening, intervention, and educational activities conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the primary federal agency for medical research. I have long supported NIH's efforts to learn more about autism and other medical conditions.
On a daily basis, families affected by autism must deal with an array of difficult health, social, and educational concerns, and I appreciate the many comments I have received through the years from families with autistic children and from those in the medical and education communities who assist in treating those with autism.
Autism poses challenges to families in South Dakota and across the nation, and I believe that private and publicly funded research into autism's causes and potential treatments is critical. Congress will soon be considering health care reform, and autism research and treatment will likely be a part of the debate.
I am impressed with the courage and compassion of the families who care for autistic children, and I believe that National Autism Awareness Month gives us all an opportunity to show support for our neighbors. I encourage South Dakotans to visit www.autism-society.org and www.autismspeaks.org for more information.