Autism Speaks Announces Fourth Round Recipients of Family Services Community Grants

More Than $400,000 Awarded to 19 Community Organizations Across the Country

NEW YORK, NY (January 14, 2010) – Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that its board of directors has approved more than $400,000 in funding for nineteen Family Services Community Grants, for a total of $1.9 million in such grants to date. These grants will help community organizations across the country expand existing programs to serve more individuals with autism, and create new programs that demonstrate true innovation in providing services to improve and enrich the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

In January 2009, Autism Speaks invited autism service providers to submit grant applications that addressed at least one of the following areas of need: Education, Recreation/Community Activities, Equipment/Supportive Technology and Young Adult/Adult Services. Autism Speaks received 395 applications from organizations in 46 states and Canada. For a list of all grant recipients, click here.

“Autism Speaks is delighted to support innovative, effective organizations that deliver critical services to individuals with autism across America,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “We continue to gain valuable information about services throughout the autism community that can and must be replicated. The need for these services is growing, and we all must work to ensure that individuals with autism and their families, no matter where they live, have access to them.”

The funding for the nineteen grants falls into the following categories: Education -- seven grants totaling $156,165; Recreation/Community Activities -- six grants totaling $134,284; Young Adult/Adult Services -- five grants totaling $103,722; and Equipment/Supportive Technology -- one grant totaling $6,950. Geographically, the grants support seven programs in the Northeast region of the country, three programs in the Southeast, five programs in the West, and four programs in the Midwest.

In the education proposals, there continues to be a great deal of collaboration between trainers, educators, and families to address the needs of learners with ASD. Hands-on training, multiple training sessions, and ongoing supervision and support for the trainees, were consistent themes across the proposals recommended for funding. During this round, Autism Speaks focused on proposals that contained the train-the-trainer model, which will result in a broader reach of well-trained professionals to work with individuals with ASD. In addition, four proposals specifically target underserved communities that do not have access to adequate services, areas where the train-the-trainer model could be especially valuable.

The Recreation/Community Activities proposals provide individuals with ASD with a variety of opportunities to develop recreational interests in supportive and inclusive environments. All proposals utilize typically developing peers to work with individuals with ASD, which is beneficial to the individuals with ASD and also serves to further expand awareness and acceptance in the community. All proposals contain a social skills component in their programs. Two of the proposals specifically focus on providing support in a community recreation setting and include a train-the-trainer model so that the services can be expanded to other individuals with ASD. Many of the programs include adults with autism, to ensure that there are more opportunities for people with ASD throughout the lifespan.

Young Adult/Adult Services continues to be an area of heightened importance for families as an increasing number of children with ASD are entering adulthood. The number of proposals that fall into this category continues to grow as a percent of the total number of applications. For this round of grants, Young Adult/Adult Services represented 19% of the proposals, with a recommendation that these services account for 26% of the funding. There were a variety of innovative proposals that address transition issues, employment, integration into the college setting, and safety issues in the home.

A two-tier review process, including both professional and parent reviewers, was used to assess each grant application.

The key elements of focus throughout the review process were:

  • Field Building – increasing both services (new opportunities) and the capacity of service providers
  • Numbers Served – including the ability to serve individuals that had not previously been served by the organization
  • Cost Effectiveness – including reasonable/detailed line item budget
  • Innovation and creativity of the proposal
  • Ability to Replicate
  • Clarity - of the proposal, with defined interim and outcome measures
  • Credibility – qualifications of the organization/principals/advisors
  • Sustainability/Viability - of the project beyond this funding cycle

In addition, the reviewers looked at the geography of the recipients to make sure that the distribution was balanced in relation to this round's proposals. Geography of the previous rounds' recipients was also looked at in order to ensure that Autism Speaks continues to develop a well-distributed portfolio of grant awards. In addition, an effort was made to ensure that the grant program funded opportunities for individuals with varying functioning levels. Finally, consideration was also given to proposals that specifically address the needs of underserved communities.

All appropriate applicants will be listed in the Family Services Resource Guide as Autism Speaks continues to connect families and service providers with resources in their communities. In addition, grants recipients will be required to provide manualized information for their projects; that information will be featured on AutismSpeaks.org so that the successful programs may be replicated by other organizations.

A request for applications for the next round of Family Services Community Grants will be announced in early 2010. Also in 2010, Autism Speaks Canada will launch a Canadian Community Grants Program to support the field of services for individuals with autism and expand the capacity to effectively serve this growing community in Canada. More information on the Canadian Community Grants Program can be found at www.autismspeaks.ca or by calling the Canadian office at 1-888-362-6227.

About Autism
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception only five short years ago, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $131 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families through 2014. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks also supports the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council which has received over $200 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a community grant program and much more. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.

About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, RAND Corporation and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism advocacy.