WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Thursday, reintroduced the Autism Family Caregivers Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide access to caregiver skills training for family members who care for children with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disabilities or delays.
“The Autism Family Caregivers Act is vital to ensuring that caregivers across the country are empowered with the knowledge, training, skills, and resources they need to provide the necessary care and home activities children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities or delays require,” Menendez said. “This five-year pilot program would award grants to nonprofit organizations, community health centers, and hospital systems, to support the healthy development of children with autism by addressing communication and daily living skills, social engagement, and behavior management.”
The legislation would establish a five-year pilot program that would award grants to nonprofit organizations, community health centers, and hospital systems to provide evidence-based caregiver skills training to family caregivers of children with autism or other developmental disabilities or delays.
Caregiver skills training teaches family caregivers how to use every day routines and home activities to improve the mental and physical well-being of children with autism and other developmental disabilities or delays, and their caregivers, by addressing communication skills, daily living skills, social engagement, and behavior management.
In addition to Sen. Menendez, the bill is also co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). In the House, the bill is led by Representatives Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), and Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.).
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released its updated report on autism’s prevalence among the nation’s children. The new report showed an increase in prevalence with 1 in 36 children, or just over 2.7% of 8-year-old children, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2020, and for the first time showed higher prevalence rates among Black, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children compared to their White counterparts. This increase reinforces the need for greater support services for all children with autism.
New Jersey has one the highest averages of identified Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) school children across U.S. communities. According to the CDC, one in 25 8-year-old children in New Jersey were identified with ASD in 2020, with one in 40 4-year-old children being identified in the same year.
Sen. Menendez, a longtime leader in the effort to ensure autistic individuals have the resources to live full and productive lives, first introduced the bipartisan, bicameral legislation, the Autism Family Caregivers Act, in 2022 that would provide 25 five-year caregiver skills pilot programs in at least 15 states to train caregivers to address communication and daily living skills, social engagement and behavior management.
In September, the Senator, along with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and ten of their Senate colleagues, introduced the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act. The new legislation would bolster U.S. support for children with disabilities, helping improve the capacity of local disabilities rights organizations and families of children with disabilities around the world to advocate for necessary reforms. This bipartisan effort authorizes $10 million each year for five years to create and establish the grant program within the State Department to empower organizations of persons with disabilities.
In 2019, Sens. Menendez and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), authored the Autism Coordination, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 that, for the first time in history, considers the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) well into adulthood and “across [their] lifetime.
Endorsing organizations include Autism Speaks, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the Arc, Community Inclusion & Development Alliance, Chinese American Association for Autistic Community, National Down Syndrome Society, Family Voices, American Academy of Pediatrics