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Press Release

Reps. Cuellar, Meng, Fitzpatrick, and Molinaro Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Provide Skills Training for Caregivers of Children with Autism

Lawmakers introduce bill to mark World Autism Month

Washington | Arturo C. Olivarez, DC Press Secretary (956-970-1441), April 28, 2023

Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Reps Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), Grace Meng (D-NY-6), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1), and Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19) introduced 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 measure 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 everyday 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.

“As Co-Chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, I am committed to empowering caregivers that serve children with autism,” said Rep. Cuellar. “I applaud my colleagues, Representatives Meng (D-NY-6), Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1), and Molinaro (R-NY-19) for working with me across the aisle to help introduce the bipartisan Autism Family Caregivers Act. This bill will train family caregivers using existing medical facilities and organizations to help improve the well-being of children with autism and developmental disabilities.”

“To ensure that children with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities are provided the tools they need to reach their full potential, we must provide their caregivers with the right skills and resources,” said Rep. Meng. “My bipartisan Autism Family Caregivers Act is a demonstration of Congress’ commitment to those who give endless amounts of their time and energy to help their loved ones live more complete lives. I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this important bill.”

“Families nationwide act as caregivers for loved ones with developmental disabilities, and we must ensure that adequate training resources are readily available,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to join my colleagues on the bipartisan Autism Family Caregivers Act to assist those who selflessly care for their disabled family members and loved ones.”

“The Autism Caregivers Act is a bold, bipartisan bill that will provide caregiver skills training for family members who care for children with autism spectrum disorder. This will give families and caregivers the knowledge and tools to meet their children’s unique needs,” said Rep. Molinaro. “As the founder of the nationally recognized Think differently initiative, I’ve long recognized the need to improve health outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Today, we are taking another step forward in our commitment to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities.”

In addition to the House legislation, a bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the Senate led by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

“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,” said Sen. Menendez. “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.”

“Millions of American families devote enormous time and attention to care for loved ones with autism and to ensure they have the same opportunities as their peers,” said Sen. Collins. “Our bipartisan legislation would support the efforts of these selfless caregivers to improve the wellbeing of children with autism. By providing families with the tools and resources they need to succeed, we can ensure that all children have the ability to reach their full potential and lead rich, fulfilling lives.”

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.

“We are grateful to Reps. Grace Meng, Brian Fitzpatrick, Henry Cuellar, and Marc Molinaro for introducing the Autism Family Caregivers Act, which recognizes the urgency of addressing disparities in access to autism services and meeting the needs of individuals across the spectrum, particularly in diverse communities across the country,” said Dr. Andy Shih, Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks. “By providing caregivers with access to evidence-based resources, the Autism Family Caregivers Act will help to create better outcomes for children with autism and other developmental disabilities in underserved communities while also supporting the wellbeing of those who care for them."

Endorsing Organizations include: Autism Speaks, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the Arc, Community Inclusion & Development Alliance, National Down Syndrome Society, Family Voices, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Autism Society of America.

For more information on the Autism Family Caregivers Act, including the bill's text, click here.