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The Associated Press September 28, 2011, 8:11AM ET

Congress extends autism research programs

Congress is sending President Barack Obama a bill to keep the government's autism research program going. Though the legislation had broad support, it almost didn't make it out of the Senate.

Autism is a developmental disability that appears early in life, leading children to withdraw from relationships. It's much more likely to strike boys than girls.

The legislation approved Monday night authorizes nearly $700 million over three years for research into the causes of autism and related conditions, as well as treatments.

The measure passed the House without controversy, but several Republican senators blocked it, citing budget concerns.

The author of the House bill, Republican congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, scrambled to overcome objections, as did Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who wrote the Senate version.

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