While Democratic presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang is focused on improving the economy, he has also emerged as a strong advocate for improved disability policy. This is due in part to the fact that Yang is himself the father of a son on the autism spectrum, as he noted in a statement on his campaign website.
“One of my boys is on the autism spectrum,” Yang wrote. “I know how invaluable resources and intervention can be, particularly if adopted early on.” The U.S., he added, should “provide ample resources to parents to be able to intervene to support the development of children with autism or who are exceptional in other ways.”
To support children with autism and other special needs, Yang’s campaign has promised to increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a 1975 law which requires schools to provide special needs students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) catering to their specific needs. Yang’s campaign plans to commit $50 billion to IDEA funding, $20 billion towards funding special education, and increased research funding at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
As noted in a report this month by Parentology.com, some disability advocates have been critical of Yang for focusing specifically on disabled children, since the public might be reluctant to provide support once those children reach adulthood.
“Often you will see the public very quick to talk about cute, disabled children, but when those children grow up, being very reluctant to provide support and services in order to be able to have a life with dignity and independence,” Ari Ne’eman, co-founder of the Autism Self-Advocacy Network, said in an interview with NPR.
Yang responded by affirming his passion for helping parents and children understand childhood treatment of autism, “because the early ages and stages are so crucial to kids’ development where the right intervention can actually change the course of that person’s life, and be the difference between them leading a happy, productive, fully integrated life and needing assistance for their entire life.”