The national drive to combat autism is gaining momentum.
In 2003 the National Institutes of Health awarded almost $10 million in
grants to six new research centers to study the biological basis of autism and
to advance treatments for those with autism (Psychiatric News, August
In 2005 the National Institutes of Health spearheaded an international
coalition of public and private health agencies and advocacy organizations to
identify genes associated with the disorder (Psychiatric News,
January 21, 2005).
In 2006 President Bush signed the Combating Autism Act of 2006 into law.
Its mission is to increase public awareness of autism, lead to early
identification and treatment of autism, and provide enhanced federal support
for autism research and treatment.
And now, as designated under the new law, an Interagency Autism
Coordinating Committee has been formed. It will be part of the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its chair is Thomas Insel, M.D., director
of the National Institute of Mental Health.
"This important committee will play a key role in coordinating autism
education, services, and research," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a
prepared statement. "I'm pleased that its members bring to the committee
a wide range and great depth of expertise, including research and program
administration, advocacy, and personal experience with the
Insel said in the same statement, "The committee's first priority
will be to develop a strategic plan for autism research that can guide public
and private investments to make the greatest difference for families
struggling with autism." The committee's strategic plan for research
should be in place by May 2008, according to the committee's Web site.