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IACC Members Participate in White House Autism Awareness Month Conference

Monday, April 28, 2011

The White House held a conference to celebrate Autism Awareness month on April 25, 2011, gathering research experts, health professionals, advocates, and families to share their ideas on speeding progress in the field and meeting the complex needs of people on the spectrum and their families. Many members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) attended the event and participated in one of the four breakout sessions focusing on education and employment, community-based services, research and innovation, and public health/healthcare.

Senior government officials noted the important work of the IACC with Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, thanking the committee for its "valuable insight and help guiding the Obama administration's policies." Ms. Jarrett announced that earlier in the month President Obama for the first time had made a proclamation in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.  In addition, she stated that the President and the Administration strongly support the reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act of 2006, including continuation of the IACC.   Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius then gave an address, citing the IACC's 2010 Summary of Advances in ASD Research as evidence of the important breakthroughs that have recently been made, but emphasized that much more must be achieved.  "We have more questions than answers still on autism spectrum disorder. But we're working harder than ever to find those answers and together we're building a world where everyone can reach his or her greatest potential," she said.

Secretary Sebelius also spoke about the importance of the Affordable Care Act in providing healthcare for people with ASD. Because of the Act, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny children coverage for a preexisting condition such as ASD and new insurance plans must cover all costs for ASD screening and developmental assessments. She cited recent advances in data collection and intervention research but noted that more work was necessary to speed the translation of scientific breakthroughs into community practice. After Secretary Sebelius' remarks, the attendees moved to their breakout sessions for a 90-minute discussion, followed by a summary report to the group as a whole.

Several common themes emerged from the groups, including the need to effectively communicate ASD research findings to the public, improve coordination across government agencies and departments providing services, remove bureaucratic obstacles to research, and take a lifespan approach to providing treatment and services for ASD. Other comments focused on the need for innovation to optimize shrinking budgets, conducting additional research on racial disparities in ASD diagnosis, and increasing the number of qualified individuals providing care for adults with ASD. The attendees also talked about the need to involve people with ASD and their families in the research process and raise awareness and acceptance in communities.

The day ended with remarks from the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor, Seth Harris, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education, Tony Miller, and Deputy Assistant to the President, Michael Strautmanis.

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The IACC is a Federal advisory committee that was created by Congress in an effort to accelerate progress in ASD research and services. The IACC works to improve coordination and communication across the Federal government and work in partnership with the autism community. The Committee is composed of officials from many different Federal agencies involved in autism research and services, as well as people with ASD, parents, advocates, and other members of the autism community. The documents and recommendations produced by the IACC reflect the views of the Committee as an independent advisory body and the expertise of the members of the Committee, but do not represent the views, official statements, policies or positions of the Federal government.  For more information on the IACC, please visit:

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