The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) is a Federal advisory committee that coordinates Federal efforts and provides advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on issues related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Through its inclusion of both Federal and public members, the IACC helps to ensure that a wide range of ideas and perspectives are represented and discussed in a public forum. The committee reconvened in July 2021 to begin a new session under the Autism CARES Act of 2019.
I am writing to you both as the parent of an autistic adult who requires full-time support and supervision, and as the senior editor of Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, which is an autism research and advocacy community with large and active Facebook and Twitter communities—which I moderate. This means that, all day long, I hear from parents, autistic people, professionals, and researchers about their priorities for autistic people to live safe, healthy, fulfilled lives.
- Research on how autistic people can process medications differently than non-autistics. The medical community seems largely unaware that autistic people often have paradoxical or atypical reactions to commonly prescribed medications, such as not reacting to—or being overstimulated by—drugs classified as sedatives. In the worst case scenarios, this lack of knowledge can be (and has been) fatal.
- Research on why sedation for medical care is an access need. Many autistic people, whether they can communicate effectively in medical scenarios or not, require partial or full sedation to be able to tolerate medical procedures such dental exams and MRIs. Yet this type of sedation is rarely covered by insurance. Research demonstrating the necessity of sedation in these circumstances would not only lead to more access to health care but to better health care outcomes.
- Research on competing sensory access needs. Autistic people don't only have sensory systems that differ from non-autistic people, they often have sensory systems that differ from each other. We need research that demonstrates, for example, why it is not sufficient to hand every student with an autism diagnosis a set of noise-canceling headphones (many autistic kids can't tolerate wearing them, others can still hear disturbing noises when wearing non-professional-grade versions), and it is certainly not appropriate to put autistic people together in classrooms, or other settings, without fully evaluating and accommodating their individualized sensory profiles.
- Research on improving access to autism diagnoses across age, gender, class, and racial gaps. Too many autistic people are being misdiagnosed, categorized as having "behavioral disorders," resorting to self-diagnosis, or being overlooked altogether. They are suffering as a result, leading to avoidable anxiety, depression, isolation, poverty, and suicidality.
- Research on the transition from the school system to the adult world, especially for autistic people with the highest support needs. "The Cliff" is a real thing for students like my son, who is currently facing a complete lack of programs that can enroll an autistic adult with full-time support needs. Even those programs that are *in*appropriate for him currently have interminable wait lists. To compound matters, even though we are fortunate to have funding for home aides, there is currently a shortage of such workers, to the point where my son does not have the staffing he needs and deserves (and has been allocated). If families like ours, which have the language, class, and cognitive advantages that make it easier to navigate often labyrinthine and impenetrable public disability supports systems like Regional Center respite, SSI, and IHSS, still can't find any support, then families that don't have our advantages are certainly worse off.