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Calls to Action

Autism Speaks and Mass. General Hospital’s Lurie Center for Autism Host Documentary Film Premiere

Screening of Blockburger Productions’ “Sounding the Alarm” on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5PM ET at the Starr Center Focuses on the Growing Impact of Autism

NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 6, 2013) — On Wednesday, January 15 at 5:00 p.m. ET, Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, and Massachusetts General Hospital’s Lurie Center for Autism, one of the few autism programs that provides comprehensive care to individuals over a lifetime, will host the premiere screening of “Sounding the Alarm,” a Blockburger Productions documentary that provides a poignant look inside the lives of those touched by autism.

In 2001, the prevalence rate for autism was 1 in 250. Currently, that rate is 1 in 88.   A recent government survey indicates the national rate of autism could be closer to 1 in 50.  And, there is still so much needed in the way of support for the children, teens and adults living on the spectrum.

“Sounding the Alarm” gives viewers a look at the profound changes in the lives of 12 American families after their children receive an autism diagnosis—attending countless therapy sessions, moving from state-to-state seeking insurance coverage for treatments, and struggling with the insurmountable financial burdens of providing care for their loved ones. The film’s focus on the many challenges faced by those with autism and their caregivers aligns with the Lurie Center’s mission to provide comprehensive care and support for individuals with autism and Autism Speaks’ commitment to improving the lives of families and individuals struggling with the disorder.  

“Sounding the Alarm” features Bob and Suzanne Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, who discuss their grandson Christian’s diagnosis nine years ago and their fight to make a difference not only for their grandson but for everyone throughout the world affected by autism. The Wright’s daughter, Katie, is also interviewed about her experiences, and viewers are given a look at Christian’s intensive daily therapies.

Over the next decade, approximately 500,000 adolescents with autism will transition into adulthood with minimal support systems in place. The film examines the concerns families face as they prepare for their children to “age out” of the system. Among those profiled are Massachusetts natives, the Martlings, whose son, Kent, will no longer be eligible to attend the Riverview School in East Sandwich, Mass. because he is approaching his 22nd birthday. Connecticut parents Jim and Kim Piatek are also featured in the film. Their 21-year-old son, Drew, continues to struggle with complex and difficult behaviors as he approaches adulthood.

In addition, “Sounding the Alarm” explores the impact state regulated health insurance has on families like the Lawrences. Their son, Bradley, needs applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy to help him learn to communicate and develop his social skills. In order for Bradley to receive appropriate treatment, his family must move from North Carolina to Indiana. The film also speaks with retired marine Hardy Mills and his wife Danielle, who are barely scraping by in order to provide their seven-year-old son, Shane, with the ABA therapy he vitally needs. In the past two years, Hardy and Danielle have spent over $120,000 out of their own pockets for Shane’s ABA services.

Also featured are experts Dr. Christopher McDougle, director of Mass General’s Lurie Center, and Dr. David Amaral, research director of the UC Davis MIND Institute, who speak to the progress of autism research, autism risk factors and the lack of funding for resources and research. Joy O’Shaughnessy, Associate Director for East End Disabilities Associates, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of supports and services to people with developmental disabilities, shares why these services are so vital and vulnerable.

Emmy award winning documentarian John Block, a 30-year veteran of NBC News, is the producer and director of “Sounding the Alarm.”

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 100 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 AutismSpeaks.org.

About Massachusetts General Hospital
Founded in 1811, the Massachusetts General Hospital (www.massgeneral.org) is the oldest and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The 957-bed medical center each year admits almost 48,500 inpatients, handles more than 1.6 million visits to its extensive outpatient programs at the main campus and four health centers, and records more than 95,700 emergency visits. The surgical staff perform more than 41,000 operations annually, and the MGH Vincent Obstetrics Service delivers about 3,700 babies a year. The largest nongovernment employer in the city of Boston, the MGH has more than 23,000 employees, including almost 4,000 registered nurses.  MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $775 million.  MGH and Brigham and Women's Hospital are founding members of Partners HealthCare System, a Boston-based integrated health care delivery system.  In 2003, MGH became the first hospital in the state to be awarded Magnet designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.  The MGH is consistently ranked among the nation’s top hospitals by US News and World Report.

About the Lurie Center for Autism
The Lurie Center for Autism at Mass General Hospital– established in 2009 with a generous gift from Nancy Lurie Marks and her family – is a multidisciplinary autism program dedicated to comprehensive clinical care, cutting-edge research, advocacy and public policy analysis, as well as providing training for a new generation of clinicians and researchers.  The Lurie Center leverages Mass General’s unique capabilities to offer multidisciplinary, comprehensive care alongside advanced research and is focused on meeting the many needs of individuals with autism from early childhood through adulthood.