New Jersey leads the nation with the highest percentage of children with autism spectrum disorders.

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Ensuring that individuals with autism are supported throughout their lives is a major goal of bipartisan legislation introduced this week by U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-4th District) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.).

The Autism Cares Act of 2019 would authorize over $1 billion in federal funding for programs that assist children, adults and families with autism. It would extend for another five years landmark autism legislation that was spearheaded by Smith and Doyle in 2014. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

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Our new legislation will reauthorize vital federal research on earlier interventions for children with autism and expands funding for critical research, education, housing, and other programs that assist the countless children and adults on the spectrum, and their families,” said Smith, whose district represents Belmar and Lake Como.  

“The bill will also help ensure that the estimated 50,000 persons with autism each year who ‘age out’ of critical assistance programs and enter adulthood are supported, as many individuals and communities are unprepared for this transition,” he added.

New Jersey remains the nation’s leader in having the highest percentage of children with autism spectrum disorders, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In its latest study, the percentage of children with ASD increased in the state from about 2.5 percent in 2012 to about 3 percent in 2014. That translates into one of every 34 children in New Jersey has some form of autism, with boys 4 percent of boys identified with ASD, compared to 1 percent of girls.

Each fall, Belmar hosts the Autism Family Services of New Jersey's annual Autism Beach Bash, billed as the largest gathering of its kind in New Jersey for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families. Now in its15th year, the all-day event on the Seventh Avenue beach features a surf camp with Surfer’s Healing, a California based nonprofit specializing in working with children with special needs.

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