Autism Speaks Awards Over $1 Million in Family Services Community Grants in U.S., Canada

53 Community Organizations Across 2 Countries Benefit

NEW YORK, NY (January 24, 2012) – Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism advocacy organization, today announced the award of over $1 million in grants to directly support the innovative work of autism service providers in dozens of communities across the United States and Canada. The awards raise the total amount of Family Services Community Grants awarded by Autism Speaks to $2.9 million in the United States and over $1 million in Canada.

The award-winning proposals range from a parent-mentoring program for Spanish-speaking families to services for families in remote communities in Alaska, Colorado and Montana to support for Autism Ontario’s Library for Canadian Adults with ASD and their caregivers.

The focus of the Family Services Community Grants continues to be two-fold: to promote autism services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism, and to increase the field of service providers.

“The Family Services Community Grant recipients are providing valuable and needed programs to enhance the lives of those living with autism,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks vice president of Family Services. “In addition to providing financial support to these worthy organizations, we continue to gain valuable information that we can share with the community through our new searchable grant database.”

Suzanne Lanthier, executive director of Autism Speaks Canada, said the Canadian grant review committee placed additional focus this year on ensuring the needs of underserved communities were a top priority. “Committee members continue to be inspired, but challenged to make final decisions not only because the creativity in the use of grant money is remarkable but also, the need is so extreme,” she added.

In February 2011, 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, and Young Adult/Adult Services.

In the United States, the Autism Speaks Board of Directors selected 27 winning proposals valued at $588,417. A list of the U.S. grant recipients can be viewed here, or visit Autism Speaks’ new searchable Grants Database.

In Canada, the Board of Autism Speaks Canada approved 26 grants totaling over $560,000 in its second year of the program. More information on the Canadian Grant process and a complete list of Canadian grantees can be found at www.autismspeaks.ca.

This year, the Education proposals selected address several specific needs of individuals with autism, such as access to insurance coverage, increased understanding of their autism diagnosis, development of social skills, and training for first responders and fire fighters. In addition, there is a continued focus on underserved communities; one proposal will develop a parent-mentoring program and another will train low-income high school and college students to work with ASD toddlers within their communities.

Proposals for Young Adult/Adult Services grew in importance as increasing numbers of children with ASD are entering adulthood. During this round of grants, Young Adult/Adult Services attracted 27 percent of the proposals, compared to just 4 percent in 2007, and included a variety of innovative proposals that focus on community integration, transition planning, and internship and employment opportunities.

Many of the Recreation/Community Activities proposals utilize typically developing peers to work with individuals with ASD, which provides the added benefit of expanding autism awareness and acceptance within the community. One proposal addresses the areas of social skills and self-care, specifically for adolescent girls with ASD. Another proposal focuses on training for five different sports and includes typically developing peers. There are also programs that focus on creating an inclusive museum experience that can be disseminated and applied to several community settings.

In reviewing applications, Autism Speaks was able to gain valuable information about what is currently available throughout the autism community, as well as areas where the organization can collaborate with other organizations to expand services for individuals affected by ASD and their families.

A portion of the funding for the U.S. awards was made possible by a generous gift made by New York Center for Autism that was raised during Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars 2010 benefit. Funding was also made possible through the generosity of the Laurence W. Levine Foundation and Beth Feldman, Susan Logan Evensen and Peter Evensen, the Marion Moore Foundation and the Helen Clay Frick Foundation. The Canadian awards were funded with support from corporate partners like Toys"R"Us, Peoples/Mappins Jewellers, KRG Children's Charitable Foundation and Spin Master Toys.

About Autism
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 social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $173 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. 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 has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ 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, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $300 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 Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, and a community grant program. 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 in 29 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 10 states. 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 Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, EMI Group Global Ltd., and AMC Networks Inc., and is a Trustee of the New York Presbyterian hospital.  Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women’s Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School.