Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 6 – Secretary Hillary Clinton released the details of her new Autism plan with four main areas: early screening outreach; proper health insurance coverage; transition into adulthood with a focus on employment; and a first-ever national adult autism prevalence study. The greater attention to both research and services would hopefully benefit the more than 3.5 million people who are on the Autism spectrum.
“Today I rolled out my Autism policy because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one of out 68 of our kids is on the Autism spectrum,” Clinton said in Sioux City, Iowa, on Tuesday afternoon. “And a lot of those families are just at their whit’s end figuring out how to get the services, how to get the insurance companies to pay for the services, to figure out what to do for schooling, then as a child becomes a young adult, what to do for housing and employment.”
Speaking on a campaign-sponsored call, Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), said the Clinton campaign approached ASAN to learn about the priorities of the autistic community. He applauded Clinton for seeking his input and being the first candidate to unveil a policy plan on autism. Since ASAN is a nonprofit, Ne’eman will not be endorsing any candidate.
He did, however, say he welcomed its focus on helping adults with autism, particularly its focus on finding employment.
The plan calls for public-private partnerships to help young adults with autism become employed.
“What the employer needs to do is to simply design the job in a way that increases their chances of performing well by tapping these abilities and providing supports for social and sensory stresses,” the plan states. “That is why Clinton’s Autism Works Initiative, building on proven success stories like Project SEARCH, will be so focused on getting more employers invested in providing competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with autism. This development would be good for the individuals, good for the firms, and good for America.”
Some of the world’s largest and most innovative technology companies – Microsoft, SAP and Specialisterne – have committed themselves to “provide employment opportunities for people on the autism spectrum in roles such as software testers, programmers, system administrators, and data quality assurance specialists.” The experiences and partnerships generated by this effort offer profound insights into how to challenge employer perceptions, recruit diverse talent, and ultimately put peoples’ diverse abilities to work.
Likewise, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has led the way in partnering with technology companies to employ more people on the autism spectrum. Such partnerships prove that careers in dynamic, cutting edge fields need not be beyond the grasp of people with disabilities.
According to the CDC, one out of every 68 children have some feature that places them on spectrum for autism disorders. This is a 30-percent increase from just two years earlier. There are no reliable estimates of adults with autism, but Clinton’s proposed adult autism prevalence study would remedy that.
Scott Badesch, president and CEO of the Autism Society of America, commended the Clinton campaign for putting an issue on the table that has not been talked about by others seeking the nomination.
“We welcome and appreciate that we are moving toward a much-needed national discussion that will hopefully address the needs of all impacted by autism and other disabilities,” Badesch said.
He also said Clinton’s campaign consulted his organization in preparing the policies released Tuesday.
“I want to be the president who helps families in our country deal with some of those issues, cause there are tens of millions of us,” Clinton said. “If we don’t have Alzheimer’s or Autism in our family, we may have mental health problems or substance abuse problems.”