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Calls to Action

Autism Speaks Names Actress and Advocate Holly Robinson Peete to Board of Directors

NEW YORK, NY (April 16, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that Holly Robinson Peete – an actress, author, autism advocate and parent of a son, Rodney, who has autism – has been appointed to its board of directors. Bob Wright, chairman of the board and co-founder of Autism Speaks, announced her appointment during a recent board meeting.

Robinson Peete's career as an actress dates back more than two decades and has included starring roles on the FOX television drama “21 Jump Street” and three other successful television series, “Hangin' With Mr. Cooper,” “For Your Love,” and “One on One.” An accomplished author, Robinson Peete won the 2006 Quill Literacy Award with her first book, Get Your Own Damn Beer, I'm Watching the Game: A Women's Guide to Loving Pro Football(2005, Rodale). She will release a children's illustrated book on autism called My Brother Charlie with co-author and daughter Ryan Elizabeth Peete, in 2010 (Scholastic).

In 1996, Robinson Peete founded the HollyRod Foundation (www.hollyrod.org), whose mission is to help improve the quality of life of people dealing with devastating life circumstances. It was inspired by her father's sad but inspiring battle with Parkinson's Disease. Four years later, inspired by her son, hollyrod4kids was formed to focus on children's causes and improving the lives of children affected by circumstances beyond their control. Through hollyrod4kids and her family's personal experiences, Robinson Peete has become an advocate for consistent and reliable education, treatment and support for families affected by autism.

One of Robinson Peete's first official activities as a Board member was to attend the celebration of World Autism Awareness Day in New York City on April 2nd. She participated in events including the ringing of the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and took part in interviews with national and local media, discussing autism awareness, education and research, as well as the mission of Autism Speaks.

Robinson Peete and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, are the proud parents of four children. They reside in Los Angeles.

About Autism
Autism is a complex brain 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 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. 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 the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, 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 funds more than $30 million each year in new autism research, in addition to supporting the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, Autism Clinical Trials Network, Autism Tissue Program and a range of other scientific and medical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning, multi-year national public service advertising campaign with the Ad Council. Autism Speaks' family services efforts include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and the distribution of community grants to local service providers. Its government relations department, through its Autism Votes initiative, has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the federal government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to require insurers to cover medically-necessary autism therapies. Each year, Autism Speaks Walk Now for Autism fundraising events are held in more than 70 cities across the country, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom. 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 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 board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation and RAND Corporation. 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. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.