Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced a plan Tuesday to broaden autism services if elected president. Her proposal is a multifaceted approach, encompassing several domains relevant to the autism community including, but not limited to:
- Boosting early screening rates with a nationwide outreach and awareness campaign
- Improving access to autism services through the Affordable Care Act, private health insurance, Medicare and TRICARE
- Enacting the Keeping All Students Safe Act which bans the use of excessive restraints, in favor of behavioral management strategies, and protects children with disabilities from bullying
- Launching a new Autism Works Initiative consisting of a post-graduation transition plan for every student with autism aging out of school-based services and a public-private partnership with employers
- Legislation to fund employment demonstration grants for individuals with autism and other disabilities, and increase housing opportunities
- Encouraging all states to enact ABLE legislation and ensure consumer protection for ABLE account beneficiaries
- Expanding support for family members and other caregivers providing long-term care for those with autism and other disabilities through the Developmental Disabilities Act
- Increasing funding for autism research and the first-ever adult autism prevalence and needs study
- Ensuring states meet their obligations under IDEA’s Child Find Program to identify, screen, and refer children with disabilities for services
- Funding for an autism protection and advocacy program through the Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act, which creates a dedicated funding stream for federally-funded protection and advocacy agencies to protect the rights of individuals on the autism spectrum
Clinton’s plan tackles several issues in the autism community, though most encouraging are the expanded access to autism services, a robust initiative to assist older individuals with autism post-graduation, with job training and with employment opportunities, and increased support and funding for caregivers and service providers caring for those diagnosed. This comes on the heels of research which found that teens with autism require enhanced support when transitioning into adulthood.
While her proposals are ambitious, they do not thoroughly address the issues of adults with autism “aging out” and losing their benefits, and the great disparity of access to services across each state. Her plan does specify pushing state governments to comply with ABLE and IDEA, however there is a stark contrast between what families dealing with autism have access to.
For example, those living in greater New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Boston metropolitan areas report greater satisfaction with their access to support and care. However, those living in states such as Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas report lack of access to sufficient support services, respite care and general dissatisfaction with quality, trained service providers.
“Too many American families are staying up at night worrying about their family members, especially children, who are living with autism. There is more we can do.”
Clinton’s plan cannot resolve all the concerns of those in the autism community. However, with such vitriol and misinformation propagated on the other side of the aisle, it is refreshing to hear a presidential candidate publicly advocating for those diagnosed on the autism spectrum and the people who care for them.