Senate should seize chance to help kids

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2008

&8220;The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.&8221;

Thomas Jefferson

The lackluster performance of Alabama&8217;s legislature appears to be following recent trends this session: bills are passed in the House of Representatives only to get caught in the petty politics (and sometimes fisticuffs) of Alabama&8217;s Senate.

Many times, the final result of this process is that good legislation passed in the House dies in the Senate.

A case in point: State Rep. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) sponsored a bill creating a state council to help people with autism. The bill passed the House unanimously late last month, 99-0, and now it sits in the Senate pending committee action.

Ward&8217;s five-year-old daughter, Riley, is more than just her father&8217;s pride and joy; she and her battle with autism are the inspiration behind the bill. Riley&8217;s positive impact and that of her father to move this legislation forward, so moved Ward&8217;s colleagues in the House that they named the bill in her honor.

Some nine different agencies serve the autistic community in Alabama and one of the chief motivations of Ward&8217;s bill is to put all of these services under one coordinating umbrella. The result promises to be increased efficiency and greater service to those with autism.

Some 30,000 individuals live with autism in Alabama so the probable impact of this bill is far-reaching and significant. Nationally, one in 150 children born in the United States will be diagnosed with autism.

Findings released by the Alabama Autism Task Force in January of this year serve as the backbone of Ward&8217;s legislation.

The task force reported the national average age for diagnosis and treatment for autistic disorders is 3 years old, but Alabama&8217;s average age is 4.5

years old. That delay in diagnosis and treatment can be directly tied to our state&8217;s comprehension of the impact this disease has on Alabama families.

Every day this bill sits in committee in the Alabama Senate delays the positive impact its passage most certainly could have. Members of the Alabama Senate have a great opportunity to clearly demonstrate that the children of this state are far more important to them than petty politics or the posturing for political power. Let&8217;s hope they take it.