Student Well-Being

Advocates Press Congress For More Autism Research Funds

By Joetta L. Sack — October 20, 1999 2 min read

Some lawmakers and activists are asking if the federal government should step up its efforts to underwrite research and give better guidance on the possible links between autism and environmental factors.

Two bills pending in Congress would authorize more federal funding for autism research and attempt to better coordinate research efforts. A general agreement on this fiscal year’s budget also contains a nonbinding House resolution urging appropriators to provide more funding for researchers.

And, in Washington last week, some lawmakers renewed their calls for more study and awareness of the condition. At a House Commerce Committee hearing Oct. 12 on children’s health issues, actress Rene Russo made a plea for the cause.

The Autism Society of America, a parent-advocacy group with 24,000 members based in Bethesda, Md., has been lobbying Congress for more funding for investigation by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Autism funding is spread among many federal entities. The National Institute of Mental Health, one of several NIH institutes that support autism research, increased its funding for autism work from $8.7 million in fiscal 1997 to $9.6 million in fiscal 1998, the most recent year for which data are available.

Autism Society Executive Director Joan Zaro said her organization was particularly concerned about the lack of knowledge about the causes of autism, and would like to learn if there are ways to prevent the condition.

“These are serious issues being raised that have not been adequately addressed by the federal government,” Ms. Zaro said.

In addition, Rep. Dan Burton, the Indiana Republican who chairs the House Government Reform Committee, is asking whether states should continue to mandate certain childhood vaccinations and whether more research is needed on possible side effects. In recent months, media attention has focused on the safety of vaccines and their possible links to autism and other health problems.

‘Cluster’ Study

Other environmental factors are also being considered. In the historic seaside township of Brick, N.J., the CDC recently homed in on what some parents assert is a suspicious “cluster” of children diagnosed with autism.

Brick Township Public Schools Special Education Director Maureen Zolkiewicz said in an interview that her district was one of the first in her state to offer services for autistic students and that it continues to provide an array of education supports to such youngsters.

Autism clusters are particularly difficult to define without a national database of the exact numbers of children identified, said Arthur Block, a senior regional representative for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the federal agency that is undertaking the preliminary investigation in Brick. Clusters for other diseases, such as cancer, have been identified and in some cases traced to environmental factors.

Based on an extensive review of existing research, “autism has not been associated with environmental exposures,” he said. Mr. Block’s agency is studying Brick’s water supply, but does not expect to find any contaminants.

Related Tags:

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being What the Research Says Child Abuse Cases Got More Severe During COVID-19. Could Teachers Have Prevented It?
A study finds that the severity of identified child abuse cases grew during the pandemic, even as reports of abuse declined.
3 min read
Image of a sad girl in the shadows
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being The Pandemic Brought Universal Free School Meals. Will They Stay?
Relaxed rules during the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed schools to serve universal free meals. Some in Congress want to make that permanent.
8 min read
Kejuan Turner, 8, eats a burger from a free bagged lunch provided by the Jefferson County School District on the back of his mother's truck with his brother, Kendrell, 9, outside their home in Fayette, Miss.
Kejuan Turner, 8, eats a burger from a free bagged lunch provided by the Jefferson County school district on the back of his mother's truck with his brother, Kendrell, 9, outside their home in Fayette, Miss., in March.
Leah Willingham/AP
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Getting Face Time With Students May Be More Important Than You Think
There's a good reason for teachers and students to keep their cameras on in class, a new neuroscience study suggests.
3 min read
Mashea Ashton, principal and founder of Digital Pioneers Academy, drops in to different Zoom classes to see how students and teachers are doing.
Mashea Ashton, the principal and founder of Digital Pioneers Academy, drops in on a Zoom class. New research shows ways teachers can build better bonds with students online.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
SEL as a Plan to Slow the Impact of Learning Loss
In this discussion, we will discuss the impacts of learning loss during the pandemic, the inequities that have emerged during this time, ...
Content provided by Center for Responsive Schools