Addressing the Growing Needs in the Lifespan of Persons Impacted Autism Spectrum Disorder

by Esther B. Hess, Ph.D.

On the invitation of several Senatorial and Congressional offices, Dr. Esther Hess, Mr. Allen Samson and Mr. Elliott Samson of Center for the Developing Mind, returned to Capitol Hill this last March, 2016 pushing an ambitious new agenda to better serve children and adults on the spectrum.

In a series of policy recommendations these advocates highlighted the needs of children and adults with autism as it deals with relatively familiar pediatric early intervention needs while expanding into the newly acknowledged lifespan concerns including learning life skills, accessing qualified support providers and obtaining funding that’s flexible.

Dr. Hess stressed that today there is a national estimate that more than 500,000 individuals with the disorder will enter adulthood in the next 10 years. Dr. Hess and party further urged Congress to pass reforms within the next year to meet the needs they’ve identified.

Specifically they’re looking for Congress to give adults with autism more access to public funding and greater choice in how such money is used for their benefit. They also want federal lawmakers to take up legislation to include social skills training within the special education curriculum in both middle and high school, create incentives for developers to build housing that’s autism-friendly and expand employment supports, among several other issues.

 What was stressed was the creation or expansion of programs that will maximize the potential of the growing number of people with autism and minimize, in the long run, the cost to society.

Representative of more than 16 states attended the Capitol Hill meeting including  the offices of Senator Casey of Pennsylvania, Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Congressman Brad Sherman of California, Congressman Albio Sires  and Congressman Chris Smith both of New Jersey and Congressman Elliott Engel of New York. Additionally, several Congressional staffers, representatives of federal agencies and members of the community were also in attendance.