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U.S. Senator from New Jersey advocates for autism research

As his six-year term draws to a close, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is basing his bid for reelection on a number of issues, including one which may surprise New Jersey readers: autism.

Yet Mendez distinguished himself as an advocate for a comprehensive federal response to combating autism during his term. Specifically, he authored the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, which was signed into law at the end of September, 2011. The law earmarks federal efforts into research, screenings, therapies and public education on autism.

In New Jersey, 1 out every 49 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, a type of developmental disorder where different areas of the brain fail to work together. It is categorized as a pervasive developmental disorder because it hinders the development of basic skills, such as communication and socialization. It's also a listed disability on the Listing of Impairments maintained by the Social Security Administration.

Symptoms typically appear before a child is 3 years old and may include delays in learning to talk, not talking at all, and/or repeated and overused behaviors, such as body rocking. For example, parents may notice that their child has not started talking yet and is not acting like other children the same age. In other cases, a child that started talking with others his or her own age may later lose those language skills.

Unfortunately, the cause of autism is still unknown. However, recent research has indicated autistic patients have abnormalities in spinal fluid and chemical signaling in the brain. For that reason, studies are underway to explore whether immune system dysfunctions might be linked to the onset of nervous systems disorders, possibly including autism.

For families with autistic children struggling to cover treatment costs, assistance may be available through various sources, including insurance plans and federal benefits programs, such as Supplemental Security Income. An attorney can explain the application procedure to you.

Source: njtoday.net, "Families Touched By Autism Rally For Menendez," Oct. 17, 2012

Keywords: SSDI, SSI, disability benefits, SSA, Social Security, autism,

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