A long-established federal autism advisory committee charged with coordinating the government’s activities related to the developmental disorder has been defunct for the last year.

Every member of the panel known as the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, or IACC, saw their term expire at the end of last September. To date, no new members have been appointed.

The committee comprised of federal officials and members of the autism community last met in July 2019. Nominations for new members were being accepted between Nov. 19, 2019 and Feb. 21, 2020.

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Typically, new members would have been appointed in March so that they could be seated in time for Autism Awareness Month in April, according to Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation who has served three terms as a member of the IACC off and on between 2007 and 2019.

This year, however, Singer believes the selection process was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Institute of Mental Health’s Office of Autism Research Coordination, which manages the IACC, is working to seat a new committee, according to Susan Daniels, director of the office.

“The IACC selection and appointment process is underway. We are hopeful that appointments will be made in the fall of 2020,” she said in a statement to Disability Scoop. “Once the new committee members are appointed, a formal announcement will be made and meetings and other activities of the IACC will resume. IACC publications have continued and will continue.”

The NIMH declined to answer any further questions about the status of the committee.

Under the latest iteration of a law known as the Autism CARES Act, which took effect last fall, the IACC is set to grow in size. The number of self-advocates, parents and autism group representatives on the panel will increase from two to three each. And, there will be members from the U.S. Departments of Labor, Justice, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development.

Singer, who has served the longest of any IACC public member, said the delay in forming a new IACC is especially unfortunate given the severe challenges facing people with autism and their families as a result of the pandemic.

“The autism community has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and is in crisis,” said Singer, citing everything from difficulties with virtual learning and lack of in-person therapies to the impact of halted autism research. “We really need the federal IACC to advocate on behalf of the autism community now more than ever.”

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