NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 30, 2010) – Autism Speaks, the nation's leading autism science and advocacy organization, is pleased to announce the appointment of Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., its chief science officer, as a public member of the NIH Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). Dr. Dawson was appointed to the IACC by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. The IACC was established in accordance with the Combating Autism Act of 2006 to provide advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding federal research activities related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), to facilitate the exchange of information on and coordination of autism spectrum disorder activities among federal agencies and organizations, and to increase public understanding of the federal government's' activities, programs, policies, and research by providing a public forum for discussions related to ASD research and services. It is chaired by Thomas Insel, M.D., director, National Institute of Mental Health.
“I am delighted that Secretary Sebelius has expanded the IACC to include more public members,” said Dr. Insel. “As a coordinating committee, the IACC should be even more effective by including the perspectives of additional foundations and individuals supporting autism research and services.”
“We are honored that Dr. Dawson has been given this well-earned opportunity to represent Autism Speaks and the entire autism community on the IACC, and to contribute her remarkable breadth of experience and knowledge to guiding federal activities related to autism,” said Bob Wright. “The recent CDC prevalence study demonstrated that autism continues to grow as a public health crisis, and more than ever, the work of the IACC is critical to focus expanded resources and attention for the greatest impact.”
“Working with the IACC is an extraordinary collaborative opportunity,” said Dr. Dawson. “My hope is for the IACC to facilitate accelerated research so that causes will be discovered and effective treatments will be available to families that will make a real difference for persons with autism and their families.”
Dr. Dawson, who has served as the scientific leader of Autism Speaks since January 2007, will support the work of the IACC as it explores critical concerns for those affected by ASD including, diagnosis, biology, risk factors, treatment, services and outcomes for the future. As Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, Dr. Dawson works with its Scientific Affairs Committee, Scientific Advisory Board, and the science staff to expand and communicate the organization's scientific vision and strategy, as well as oversees the work of the Autism Genome Resource Exchange, the world's largest database of autism genetic data, and the Autism Tissue Program which provides brain tissue to researchers around the world. Dr. Dawson oversees Autism Speaks annual research portfolio which funds more than $30 million in research on causes and treatment of autism annually.
Dr. Dawson is Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, and Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University. Dr. Dawson served on the Scientific Advisory Board for Cure Autism Now from 1996-2007. She is a former Director of the UW Autism Center of Excellence, National Institutes of Health Autism Centers of Excellence program (2007-2008), Founding Director, UW Autism Center, University of Washington (2000-2007), and from 2003 -2008, served as Director, UW Center of Excellence in Autism Research, National Institutes of Health STAART (Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment) Network. She holds a B.S. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology/Child Clinical Psychology, both from the University of Washington.
Dr. Dawson has been widely published in academic journals, including her most recent study, “Randomized, Controlled Trial of an Intervention or Toddlers With Autism: The Early Start Denver Model” which appeared in Pediatrics, November 30, 2009. Two of Dr. Dawson's articles in Archives of General Psychiatry presented evidence for autistic regression in about 25 percent of autism cases in the United States. Dr. Dawson has edited or authored several books about autism spectrum disorder which have been translated into multiple languages, including Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism,Promoting Language, Learning, and Engagement, co-authored withSally J. Rogers, PhD., as well as Autism: Nature, Diagnosis, and Treatment; Human Behavior, Learning, and the Developing Brain; and A Parent's Guide to Asperger's Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism.Dr. Dawson has testified twice on behalf of families of individuals with ASD at the US Senate and played a key role in the Washington State Autism Task Force.
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 North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception only five short years ago, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $142.5 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 $210 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, Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association 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 also Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards such as 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 Weizmann Institute of Science. 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.