Articles / 10.29.2019

We Should All Care About the Autism CARES Act

By Susan Stone & Kristina Supler

student defenseChildren on the autism spectrum don’t stay children forever – and may face challenges and legal battles throughout their lives. With a strong focus on Autism & Mental Health Advocacy in our Student & Athlete Defense practice, that’s something we are keenly aware of. While our justice system recognizes us as adults as soon as we reach the age of 18, the needs of those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) do not simply go away once they hit legal adulthood. So, why should research funding disappear once that milestone is realized? It is estimated that the number of children who “age out” of ASD programs is between 70,700 and 111,600 every year. Historically, only 1-2% of ASD funding is geared toward adults.

President Donald Trump recently signed The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act of 2019, or the “Autism CARES Act” (the Act). In total, the Act authorizes more than $1.8 billion in funding through 2024 for those with ASD and their families. But what we find particularly noteworthy is the Act’s purposeful recognition of ASD as a lifelong disorder; the phrase “across the lifespan” is inserted where appropriate to broaden the scope of the earlier Autism CARES Act of 2014. The Act further requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide a report to Congress which details the current landscape of ASD services with an emphasis on the needs of adults with ASD.

Additionally, the Act authorizes the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director to consider, where appropriate, the extent to which a center can demonstrate availability and access to clinical services for youth and adults from diverse racial, ethnic, geographic and linguistic backgrounds when making decisions about awarding grants to applicants. We applaud this effort to reduce disparities, and we are not alone in supporting the noteworthy changes included in the Act.

Autism Speaks, the largest ASD advocacy organization in the country, worked closely with the Act’s congressional champions and advocates across the U.S. to ensure it provided the support for research and services included in the measure. The organization commended the Act’s passage as an assurance that federal funding would continue, noting that besides reauthorizing numerous programs that focus on ensuring high-quality services for those with ASD, it also places “an increased emphasis on reducing health disparities and improving services throughout the life span.”

We aren’t just attorneys who have clients on the autism spectrum. We are also fierce advocates. We are thrilled to see bipartisan support for expanding services for all individuals with ASD, regardless of age or background. It is about time we all recognize that ASD does not discriminate.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about KJK’s Student & Athlete Defense practice, please contact Susan Stone at or 216.736.7220, or Kristina Supler at or 216.736.7217.


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