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Posted Jul 07 2008 7:16pm

I need your immediate help. On Tuesday, May 20th, Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania will introduce an Amendment to H.R.. 5658 (the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act). This Amendment will help thousands of military children and families impacted by autism. On behalf of these military families, I ask for your immediate help and action to voice your support of Congressman Sestak's Amendment. I've outlined instructions below for contacting your Congressional Representative and Senators. I ask for your phone calls, faxes, and signature to our online petition. With your immediate action, we can effect change and help to improve the lives of our special children (and the many more yet to be diagnosed).

Congressman Sestak's amendment will increase funding of autism treatment, including behavior intervention services based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis ("ABA"), for military children through the TRICARE Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) from $2,500 a month to $5,000 a month. The effectiveness of ABA in autism has been well documented through five decades of research by using single subject methodology and in controlled studies of comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention programs in university and community settings. ABA improves language and communications skills, social skills, daily living skills, and play and leisure skills. ABA works to develop positive family relationships and helps to reduce harmful and interfering behaviors.

A child's treatment plan should be based on individual need and consistent with best practices. The National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended a minimum of 25 hours of ABA a week. Optimal results are often seen with 35-40 hours a week. The $2,500 monthly financial limit of the TRICARE ECHO program is not sufficient to meet minimum standards. Costs for these programs often exceed $5,000 a month. Congressman Sestak's amendment marks great progress toward recognizing the importance of providing effective intervention services.

During this time of persistent conflict and extended tours of duty, our military families face an extreme set of circumstances. Autism greatly compounds the challenges many military families bear. Providing for effective medical care and family supports is essential to mission readiness. We owe military parents who have children with autism the very best quality of life that we can offer. Our military men and women who deploy repeatedly to combat and serve this great Nation with honor and integrity deserve nothing less.

Congressman Sestak is a great American. His advocacy for our military children and families is greatly appreciated. This Amendment is intended to help the most vulnerable of our military children, but unfortunately, significant resistance is expected. We need your help. We need your action on behalf of our military children with autism.

I thank you for your support of our military children and families. Together we will effect change!

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