Autism Speaks Awards First-Ever Scholarship Grants to Postsecondary Education Programs

Brian & Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund Awarded $249,000 to 11 Institutions to Help Provide Funding for Individuals with Autism to Pursue Opportunities After High School

NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 15, 2014) — Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced the recipients of its inaugural Brian & Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund, which is designed to provide funding and educational opportunities after high school for young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Of the 42 proposals received, 11 institutions and programs were awarded a total of $249,000.

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. As the average age of ASD 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 in some cases.

To be eligible, recipients of the Brian & Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund were required to identify qualified students or clients with ASD to receive scholarships of up to $5,000 or a maximum of $25,000 per program. Recipients were chosen based on how the college or program conducts outreach to potential scholarship recipients and how the college or program prepares participants for post-college life.

Grant recipients include the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which offers two tracks: one for those with ASD who will graduate with a college degree and one track that will result in a certificate program for those with intellectual disabilities. Kennesaw State University, a two-year college in Georgia, was awarded funding for its integrated program with autism-specific supports such as mentors and assistance with executive functioning and time management. Autism Speaks also provided funding to nonPareil Institute, a vocational program in Plano, TX, that provides instruction on software development specifically for those with ASD. Transition programs that develop employment and life skills were also funded. Several of the programs utilize college campuses to build life skills and independence.

"We want to congratulate our Scholarship Fund recipients and thank Brian and Patricia Kelly for their commitment and generosity,” said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. “This brings us a step closer to meeting the many needs of our young adults with ASD by providing them with more opportunities to further their education and enhance their quality of life.”

Committed donors and autism advocates Brian and Patricia Kelly partnered with Autism Speaks to help create the Brian & Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund, which launched in July 2013 to develop additional opportunities for young adults with ASD to pursue postsecondary education, and ultimately increase the number of enrolled students on the autism spectrum. The Scholarship Fund selects eligible colleges, vocational/technical schools and transition programs in the U.S. to identify qualified students or clients with ASD and offer scholarship funds for these individuals.

“Patricia and I are thrilled that the inaugural Postsecondary Scholarship Fund will provide young adults with autism the opportunity to attend one of these eleven exceptional programs,” 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 parents of a teenage son with autism, we understand the importance of services and supports for transition-aged individuals and are confident that this year’s Postsecondary Scholarship Fund recipients will help open the door to new possibilities for the scholarship awardees after high school and into adulthood.”

The 2013 Brian & Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund Recipients:

For more information about each of the recipients, click here.

The next open cycle for Postsecondary Scholarship Fund applicants will take place in August. Click here for additional information.

In conjunction with the Scholarship Fund launch, Autism Speaks also developed a Postsecondary Educational Opportunities Guide to provide individuals with autism and their families with an inside look into the numerous opportunities available after high school. The guide covers various topics including types of learning environments, different educational institutions, transition programs and support services.

To learn more and find out about Autism Speaks’ resources for adult services on topics including transition, housing and employment, visit www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/adults

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 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.