Founders' Message

A Message from Suzanne and Bob Wright
Co-founders, Autism Speaks

It’s hard to believe that 9 years have passed since we founded Autism Speaks. What began as idea to give a voice to the millions of disenfranchised families around the nation, has materialized as the largest autism advocacy organization in the world. We are incredibly proud of what Autism Speaks has accomplished in such a short span of time, and we could not have done it without the initial support of our long time friend Bernie Marcus and his $25 million dollar donation. Bernie’s contribution helped launch Autism Speaks. 

 
Since 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides – the Combating Autism Act (CAA) signed by President Bush in 2006, plus President Obama’s autism stimulus grant has produced over $1 billion for medical and scientific study. In addition, Autism Speaks alone has committed over $160 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families. Our organization continues to fund research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; we are committed to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and we will advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. 
 
In addition to putting money into new and cutting edge research, we also fund resources and programs such as the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include our Light it Up Blue project. In 2011 over 1800 structures in over 180 cities in 35 countries lit up blue for autism – most notably - Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and the Empire State Building in New York City. Autism Speaks’ award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $258 million in donated media since its inception and our latest spot, Closer to Home, began airing nationally in 2010. Early surveys indicate that awareness continues to increase and we anticipate that the new spot will result in a significant uptick in general awareness. Among our family resources launched in 2010 were an updated version of the 100 Day Kit, the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Tool Kit and a Dental Tool Kit to promote good oral health and guide dentists in making a visit more comfortable for those on the autism spectrum. Out in the field our 80 Walk Now for Autism Speaks events across North America rallies over 400,000 folks in support of our mission. 
 
The battle for autism insurance reform still rages and Autism Speaks continues to fight. Over the past few years our Government Relations Team has played a vital role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism. We have successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 25 states thus far, accounting for more than 50% of the population. Undoubtedly, this is one of our greatest achievements. As we move forward, Autism Speaks will not lessen the pressure we apply on our legislators until every state has an autism insurance law in place.   
 
At a time when 1 in 68 American children, including 1 in 42 boys is now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, it is our responsibility to ensure previous commitments to our families, such as the CAA and the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA), which serves as the CAA extension, are upheld. 
 
We created this organization because of our grandson Christian and for the millions of children in the world just like him. Everyday they serve as our inspiration as we continue on our journey to find the missing pieces of the autism puzzle. Thank you for joining us in this pursuit. 
 

"This disorder has taken our children away.
It's time to get them back."


Thank you to all of the families who have so generously shared their children's photos and stories


Co-founders, Autism Speaks