Federal Autism Strategic Plan creation, Letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Federal Autism Coordinator Dr. Ann Wagner, Response to CDC report showing 150 percent increase in autism prevalence among US children over past 12 years and a 15 percent increase in only two years


“APRIL 26, 2018

The Honorable Alex Azar
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201

Dr. Ann Wagner, Ph.D.
Federal Autism Coordinator
Chief, Biomarker and Intervention Development for Childhood-Onset Mental Disorders Branch
Division of Translational Research
National Institute of Mental Health
6001 Executive Blvd., Room 7162, MSC 9617
Bethesda, MD 20892

Dear Secretary Azar and Dr. Wagner:

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to request a meeting with you both in May to discuss the creation of a Federal Autism Strategic Plan in direct response to the just-released report from the CDC showing a 150 percent increase in autism prevalence among U.S. children over the past 12 years and a 15 percent increase in only two years. This growing crisis now affects over three percent of the American population—including those with autism and their families. Autism is on track to cost the U.S. a trillion dollars annually by 2025, surpassing the costs of diabetes, stroke or hypertension.

The unremitting growth and cost of autism require the immediate development of a comprehensive strategy with measurable policy goals and objectives, following an effort to incorporate input and feedback from stakeholders representing all segments of the autism community, as well as scientists and clinicians from diverse fields. Cabinet-level coordination will be necessary to bridge the gap among relevant Executive Branch agencies, such as the departments of HHS, Labor, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, and Justice.

Based on the innumerable challenges facing people with autism and their caregivers, a more accountable and effective plan is urgently needed to increase the safety, health, and independence of people with autism and to find the modifiable causes of the increase in this disabling disorder. We recognize that the Interagency Autism, Coordinating Committee (IACC) sets aside time for public comment at its quarterly meetings, however, this forum does not give ample time to discuss and address the severe problems we recognize as priorities for our constituency. The IACC is not a mechanism for creating a Federal Autism Strategic Plan with measurable goals and objectives, and for discussing policy alternatives and best practices from programs across the country.

Further, among many organizations and other members of the autism community, the IACC has a dubious reputation given its lack of transparency in vetting research studies and its own committee membership. The urgency of the autism crisis, measured in human suffering, increased mortality, lack of independence, and economic cost, requires a more comprehensive and timely response than the IACC is designed to give.

Please have a member of your staff contact Lisa Wiederlight at (202) 780-9821 or lisa@safeminds.org to arrange the meeting at your earliest convenience.


Sallie Bernard
SafeMinds Founder

Lisa Ackerman
TACA Executive Director

Megan Davenhall
Thinking Mom’s Revolution Board Member”






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