Senator Continues Fight for Families Touched By Autism
Sen. Bob Menendez sponsored legislation to reactivate the Combating Autism Act.
Thirteen-year-old Alexander Feeley has his good days and his bad days.
Feeley was diagnosed with autism when he was 3. He hugged his mother and held her close, nuzzling his head next to hers.
“It has been quite a journey,” Feeley’s mother, Cecilia, said. “We’re just so grateful for the support from so many people.”
Feeley, his mother, and others met with Sen. Bob Menendez at her house to celebrate the continuation of federal funding to assist families with an autistic individual under the Combating Autism Act (CAA). The legislation was signed into law in 2006. Menendez sponsored legislation reauthorizing the act. It was signed into law in 2011. Menendez is running for re-election this year.
“I’ve heard too many stories from families with a child with autism that they were denied critical therapies and services because their insurance companies wouldn’t cover them,” Menendez said.
The act provides $231 million annually for creating education, early detection, and intervention programs to try and properly diagnose and treat autism.
“For many families in New Jersey, early intervention would be cost prohibitive without the resources provided by the federal government,” Menendez said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 88 children younger than 8 are diagnosed with autism annually. In New Jersey, the number is about one in 49.
Early detection, Menendez said, must be part of the process of properly diagnosing and treating autism.
“For many families in New Jersey, early intervention would be cost prohibitive without the resources provided by the federal government,” Menendez said. “No one wants to deny any child anything on the basis of cost, especially when we are talking about that child’s well being.”
Bergen County freeholder Joan Voss’ son Paul has asperser’s syndrome, a mild form of autism.
“He’s very smart, but his social skills were very poor so I thought that maybe he was just shy,” Voss said. “I paid out of pocket for speech therapy and other forms of treatment out of pocket so I know what families are going through. What worries me is that teachers think that children who are anti-social have some sort of developmental problem and that’s just not true for autistic people. It’s social.”