NEW YORK, N.Y. (August 22, 2013) — Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced the Brian & Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund and the launch of its first-ever Postsecondary Educational Opportunities Guide designed to help young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families explore various educational opportunities beyond high school.
Approximately one-third of today’s youth with ASD attend college, a far cry from a decade ago when postsecondary education for young adults on the spectrum was considered unattainable. In recent years, the focus of the autism community has shifted away from the limitations of these individuals and a new emphasis has been placed on their various capabilities and achievements. As the average age of diagnosis declines and the response to available treatments improves, the accomplishments of children and young adults with autism continue to exceed prior expectations, contributing to an increase in postsecondary opportunities for individuals on the spectrum.
To help promote additional opportunities for young adults to pursue postsecondary education and ultimately increase the number of enrolled students on the autism spectrum, committed donors and autism advocates Brian and Patricia Kelly have joined with Autism Speaks to help create the Brian & Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund. The goal of the Scholarship Fund is to raise $750,000 to provide funding to a select number of eligible two and four-year colleges, vocational/technical schools and transition programs within the U.S. The institutions will work to identify qualified students or clients with ASD to receive scholarships of up to $5,000. There will be a strong focus on how the college or program conducts outreach to potential scholarship recipients and how the college or program prepares participants for post-college life.
“Through our support of Autism Speaks, Patricia and I have been dedicated to raising awareness of autism, advancing research and advocating for families and individuals on the spectrum. We are proud to add our name to the Postsecondary Scholarship Fund and help expand opportunities for young adults with autism after their graduation from high school,” said Brian Kelly, a founding executive committee member of the Autism Speaks board of directors and chair of the Autism Speaks Family Services committee. “As our 16-year-old son Patrick approaches this significant phase in his life, we are keenly aware of the importance of support services for transition-aged individuals with autism and the need for additional and more accessible opportunities after high school for this growing population.”
"Creating and funding opportunities for young adults is a top priority for Autism Speaks,” said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. “Every year, thousands of high school students with ASD age out of school-based services. We want to give them a chance to pursue a postsecondary education that meets their interests and abilities. Thanks to Brian and Patricia Kelly's generosity, many of these students' dreams can become a reality.”
To date, donations totaling $320,000 have been received for the Scholarship Fund. Individuals, organizations and corporations who would like to contribute to the Brian & Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund and its focus on advancing opportunities for young adults with autism may contact Gary Jaworski, Autism Speaks senior vice president of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org. This scholarship program aims to provide postsecondary education opportunities to at least 150 young adults on the spectrum.
Autism Speaks encourages individuals with ASD to contact postsecondary institutions and programs in order to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Applications are now being accepted through October 21, 2013. For more information and how to apply, visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/grants/kelly-postsecondary-fund. Applicants will be notified at the end of this year.
In conjunction with the Scholarship Fund, Autism Speaks launched its first-ever Postsecondary Educational Opportunities Guide providing information from experts in the field as well as those working in different learning institutions. Additionally, the Guide offers the best possible resources to families of young adults with ASD. This new tool aims to give these families an inside look into the numerous opportunities available to their young adults after high school. It covers a wide range of topics including the various types of learning environments at different educational institutions, the transition programs and support services available to them and information about life on campus. The Guide also includes peer-to-peer advice and recommendations for parents.
“Young adults on the autism spectrum and their families can easily be overwhelmed when considering what steps to take after high school graduation,” said Lisa Goring, vice president of Family Services at Autism Speaks. “Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach, our new Postsecondary Educational Opportunities Guide was created to help families navigate what options are available so they can research programs and services that are specific to their needs and make the best decision that will benefit their young adult’s educational experience.”
For more about Autism Speaks’ Postsecondary Educational Opportunities Guide, visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/postsecondary. To learn more about Autism Speaks’ adult services and resources on topics including transition, housing and employment, visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/adults.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 78 percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It 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. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed nearly $200 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 95 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.AutismSpeaks.org.