Bob Wright, co-founder of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, testified before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, telling Congressional leaders autism is now an “epidemic” and a national strategic plan is needed to combat the disorder.
During an appearance on Andrea Mitchell Reports, Wright explained why Congress needs to make autism awareness and research more prevalent in America. According to the Center for Disease Control, the disorder affects one in 88 American children and is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S. Wright said that a study his group did in South Korea showed even higher rates: one in 37 overall and one in 24 for boys. He hopes to replicate the methodology of that study in the U.S.
“This is a national crisis and there’s no sense of urgency,” Wright told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “There’s no sense of setting goals, milestones and timelines with a lot of passion.”
Wright stressed to Mitchell the need to fund basic science and connect organizations from the CDC to the National Institutes of Health, Health and Human Services, and the Food and Drug Administration.
“We have to bring services and research together,” Wright said. “Diagnosis should be achieved at 18 months and we have five years in many places."
Wright noted discrepancies in many services and treatments for those affected by autism especially those for adults. He listed education, housing, employment and integration to the community has key concerns for adults with autism that has yet to be addressed by Congress in detail.
According to Wright, autism creates costs of $137 billion a year for the U.S., breaking down to $60,000 per year for family. Most of these costs are borne by the parents of the autistic child. Wright told Mitchell he’s “optimistic” after Thursday’s testimony but Congress needs “to have a plan” and “a will to execute it.”