Sen. Menendez Visits State of the Art Autism Research Lab

Latest CDC report finds 1 in 45 children in NJ identified with an Autism spectrum disorder

April 4, 2014

Press Release from the Office of Senator Menendez:

Senator Menendez, Gino Valiant, Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, M.D.On the heels of a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which found 1 in 45 New Jersey children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), author of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA), visited Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to see first-hand cutting edge research being done to identify causation and advance diagnosis and treatment of autism. Autism New Jersey leadership joined the Senator at the event.

“These new autism figures should be both a cause for alarm and a call for action,” said Senator Menendez. “We must redouble our efforts and secure the funding needed to not only ensure critical autism programs aren't shuttered but to increase our investment into cutting edge research – like the kind being done right here – and find new diagnostic tools, early intervention techniques, therapies and lifelong support and services for individuals with autism and their families.”

Funding to support autism research is essential to understanding the roots of this disorder, as well as the best treatments. Menendez was led on a tour of the school’s research facilities by autism researcher, Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, M.D., whose team is using data drawn from the Rutgers Cell and DNA Repository to help substantiate the link between autism and Engrailed 2 (EN2), a gene important in central nervous system development. Rutgers also serves the needs of people with autism spectrum disorders, their families, and their schools through the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. The program, recognizing that each diagnosis is unique to the individual, focuses on teaching patients to compensate for the effects of the disorder.

"We are looking at a specific gene and how it relates to Autism in order to learn about the causes, early diagnosis and figure out earlier intervention and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” said Dr. DiCicco-Bloom.

Menendez is leading the effort to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act (CARA) and ensure continued federal support for Autism research and services. CARA is set to expire on September 30, 2014. This legislation extends federal efforts into research, screenings, therapies and public education on autism. He is also the author of legislation to address the challenges of young adults and their families as they "age out" of the school-based system after graduating high school. Issues like continuing education, housing, employment and even transportation are vitally important for these young adults who are too often left to fend for themselves.

“Our current system is desperately lacking in services targeted to young adults, making the already difficult transition to an independent adulthood that much harder,” said Menendez, who will make addressing the ‘aging out’ issue a priority during negotiations on new funding for CARA. “We have to work together to put a focus on transitioning youth and adult services, so that children with autism are able to fulfill their God-given potential and become successful, independent adults -- with autism.”

Menendez was joined by: Dr. Christopher Molloy, Rutgers University Sr. VP of Research and Economic Development; Dr. Jason Lunden, Rutgers Postdoctoral researcher with Autism; Jeff Gitterman of Manalapan, a father of a teen with atuism; Linda Fiddle, Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation; Gino Valiant, Autism New Jersey; Kerry Magro, Autism Speaks; Cecilia Feeley, Rutgers Transportation Autism Project Manager; Peter Bell, Eden Autism Services; Madeline Goldfarb, Noah’s Ark Institute; Vashti Johnson; other Autism researchers, families and advocates.

Board of Trustees President Gino Valiant thanked Menendez for leading the effort to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act (CARA) and ensure continued federal support for Autism research and services. 


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