Autism – Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Address Wandering By Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Other Developmental Disabilities

Kevin and Avonte’s Law (S. 2614) was introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) on March 1. This legislation reauthorizes an existing program designed to assist in locating persons with dementia who wander from safe environments and it adds new support for children with developmental disabilities, including ASD. It allows Justice Department grants to be used to develop training and emergency protocols, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make local tracking technology programs available for individuals who may wander because of their condition. The Arc supports this legislation as it seeks to prevent and reduce the harm from wandering (or “elopement”) by the 27% of children with developmental disabilities who are reported to wander from safe settings each year. Read Senator Grassley’s statement for the Congressional Record here.

Autism – Federal panel determines evidence is insufficient for universal ASD screening

Last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a final recommendation statement on “Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Young Children.”  The USPTF concluded that evidence is insufficient to recommend that all children be screened for autism, stating that “…the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in young children for whom no concerns of ASD have been raised by their parents or a clinician.”  The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine convened by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  The Arc and several other disability organizations submitted comments last year on the USPSTF’s draft recommendation.  We expressed support for guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics that call for continuous developmental surveillance and for specific autism screening at 18 months, 24 months, and whenever a parent or provider expresses concern.  The Arc is concerned that the USPSTF final recommendation statement could be used by insurance companies to discontinue reimbursement to physicians for screening work, despite the availability of free brief evidence-based screening tools.  Visit the USPSTF web site to view its final recommendation.