For the first time in years, a federal panel tasked with guiding the nation’s priorities on autism is set to meet.

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee will hold a virtual meeting July 21 and 22. The panel is comprised of government officials and members of the autism community and is charged with advising the secretary of health and human services and coordinating federal activities related to the developmental disability. The group last met in July 2019.

Since that time, all of the committee’s members saw their terms expire. Congress approved the continuation of the committee as part of the Autism CARES Act, which took effect in October 2019, and nominations for new members were accepted between Nov. 19, 2019 and Feb. 21, 2020, but no new appointments were made.

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Susan Daniels, director of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Office of Autism Research Coordination, which manages the IACC, told Disability Scoop that the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in the delays and things were further held up when the White House changed hands in January.

Now, officials say that new committee members will be announced in the coming weeks.

Alison Singer, who is president of the Autism Science Foundation served three terms on the IACC off and on between 2007 and 2019, said that she’s “thrilled” to see the committee resuming.

“The IACC plays a critical role in the autism community and its dormancy for over a year has had real repercussions,” Singer said. “Individuals with autism and their families have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in terms of lost school time, canceled services, social isolation and shuttered university research centers. It’s more urgent than ever for the IACC to resume its function coordinating federal and public efforts to support autism research and services, and to inform the HHS secretary about the effect of COVID-19 on our population so that appropriate new policies can be enacted.”

The new iteration of the IACC will be larger than before. Under the most recent version of the Autism CARES Act, the number of self advocates, parents and autism group representatives on the panel will grow from two to three each. The law also calls for the IACC to add members from the U.S. Departments of Labor, Justice, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development.

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