On July 7, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the appointments of new and returning members to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). As described in an HHS press release, the committee helps to set priorities for federally funded autism research and services, coordinates federal activities concerning autism spectrum disorder, and provides advice to the HHS Secretary on issues related to autism. The committee’s responsibilities include developing and annually updating the IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and preparing an annual Summary of Advances in ASD Research.
Appointed by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, the committee is made up of 22 public members, two of whom are returning to the committee. Their role is to advise HHS on how to advance research, enhance services, and increase opportunities for autistic people, the HHS release said. The public committee members include researchers, clinicians, autistic people, parents of autistic people, and representatives from autism and disability organizations, as noted in a Spectrum article. Among the autism and disability organizations are the Autism Science Foundation, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Autism Speaks, Champions Foundation, Simons Foundation, and Madison House Autism Foundation.
The Spectrum article also noted that seven of the public members are autistic. “We are excited to welcome the largest and most diverse IACC to date, with a wider representation of perspectives from across the autism community than ever before,” says Susan Daniels, IACC executive secretary. In the Spectrum article, Samantha Crane, legal director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and a returning IACC member, also lauded the increased “diversity of voices on the IACC.”
In addition, 23 new and returning members represent federal agencies and departments, including those that work on biomedical research, healthcare, education, and social services. Of those 23 members, four represent agencies new to the IACC. Representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Labor, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Department of Justice will provide expertise in housing, employment, interactions with law enforcement, and care for veterans on the autism spectrum. Helen Tager-Flusberg, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University and a newly appointed public member, told Spectrum that she believes that the “addition of the new agencies may help the IACC and, by extension, the government address urgent needs for autistic people, such as housing.”
Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health, will continue to serve as the chair of the committee. The first meeting of the new committee took place virtually on July 21 and 22, 2021. The full recordings of the meetings are available on the IACC website.
Sherri Alms is the freelance editor of The OARacle, a role she took on in 2007. She has been a freelance writer and editor for more than 20 years.