Here in the United States we'll be voting for president soon. (Well, in six months.) For myself and many others, the candidates' stances on autism is of particular interest. With the CDC reporting that 1 in 88 children born in the US has autism, this is an issue that should matter to everyone, even if you don't have a loved one with autism nor have autism yourself. Without attempting to pass opinion, I wanted to talk about the candidates' positions on the subject.
My main concern about Mitt Romney with regards to autism is that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot known about his stance. The biggest indicator is a YouTube video in which a 9-year-old boy with autism asked Romney what he would do to help autistic kids if he were elected. His response, summarized:
- He would support funding scientific research that results in health benefits to the American public.
- His remarks only addressed searching for a cure for autism and other disorders, and made no mention of anything he would do in other respects to support those who currently have it.
- He indicated that while he supports funding these research programs, that support is contingent on being able to pay for them. He would not be willing to increase our debt to foreign powers to do so, but he would slash budgets for other programs.
As for the incumbent, we have the advantage of seeing what he has actually done in comparison to what he promised. Actions speak louder than words and all that. The Tampa Bay Times maintains PolitiFact, a site devoted to not only fact-checking candidates' claims during speeches and debates, but also tracking whether or not a candidate keeps their campaign promises after they're elected. Below is the list of Obama's campaign promises related to autism that I was able to find through their site. As with pretty much every elected official ever, some promises were kept, some were broken.
- Reinstate executive order to hire an additional 100,000 federal employees with disabilities within five years
- Create a best practices list for private businesses in accommodating workers with disabilities
- Launch educational initiative for employers on tax benefits of hiring employees with disabilities
In The Works (some action taken, but promise not fulfilled so far)
- Mandate insurance coverage of autism treatment
- Set a national goal to provide re-screening for all 2-year-olds for developmental disorders
- Fully fund the Combating Autism Act and Federal Autism Research Initiatives
- Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Appoint federal-level coordinator to oversee all federal autism efforts
- Create a National Commission on People with Disabilities, Employment, and Social Security
- Change federal rules so small businesses owned by people with disabilities can get preferential treatment for federal contracts
If you have other information (from credible sources) on the candidates with respect to autism, please send it my way and I'll add them to this post. Whatever you decide, please remember to vote!