Thursday, December 07, 2006

Combating Autism Act

I may have overreacted a bit the other day when I heard the NPR story about the interplay of the Combating Autism Act and Congressman Barton's plan to overhaul the National Institutes of Health. I just read over the amendments Barton made to the CAA, and I don't see any dramatic substantive changes that set off any alarm bells in my own head. The law will not require NIH to investigate any particular theory of autism causation--something wanted by advocates of theories that federal health agencies have historically been unfriendly towards--but it does speak in terms of biomedical and environmental research. The Senate bill, if I read it correctly, would have established and funded research centers devoted solely to the study of possible environmental causes of autism, meaning the mercury in old vaccines. I believe that my own kids' disorders have a genetic cause that may or may not have been triggered by an environmental insult, and I've yet to be convinced by the arguments put forth by advocates of a link between vaccines and autism, but I would like to see the vaccine theory investigated and either confirmed or debunked. If there are too many holes in that theory, then reasonable minds will put it to bed and move on to other, more promising theories.

Incidentally, radio talk-show host Don Imus deserves some credit here. He was relentless in attacking Congressman Barton for holding up the CAA. Imus, like numerous autism bloggers, is unhappy with the mainstream autism organizations for negotiating a compromise on the issue, but he allows that there's more good than bad in the legislation.

I really need to plunge back into autism-related issues. I got so burned out a few years ago by the day-to-day grind of parenting and advocating for my kids with various systems that I backed off to pay some attention to other issues like my own health.


Anonymous said...

Over-react! Who us? As for the whys and wherefores - for my own part I couldn't really give a toss any more [translation = one wit] but I worry for everyone else.
Best wishes

Wade Rankin said...

It's a bad bill Randy. Even though it makes a passing reference to investigating environmental causes, the House version stripped the primary mechanism for doing so from the bill. And it's totally up to the whims of the CDC and NIH as to whether they will do the research. Don't hold your breath waiting for any progress.

Anonymous said...

Just throwing this out there as I am genuinely curious...

As I understand it, the educational system has available some very good programs designed for autistic children aimed at teaching them to be as functinal as possible. However, this type of support ends as the children "age-out" of the system. Would the money (or at least some of it) be better spent developing programs for adults with autism?

Randy said...

Ros, it does seem that the focus of the intervention component of this legislation is on children with autism disorders. I would hope for more programs aimed directly at adults with autism.

There are some excellent training techniques known collectively as applied behavior analysis (ABA) from the field of behavioral psychology, but most school systems are reluctant to put out the money to implement intensive ABA programs. My kids have a couple of sessions a day of intensive daily ABA training in addition to their regular classroom time, and we're seeing some progress. Baby steps, but progress nevertheless.