Autism Speaks Names Leslie Long First Director of Housing and Adult Services

New York, N.Y. (July 21, 2011) – Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, has named Leslie Long, a long-time advocate on behalf of adolescents and adults with autism, as its first director of housing and adult services. Long, who will be based out of Autism Speaks’ Princeton office, will be responsible for the development and execution of the organization’s housing and adult services initiatives, which include the Autism Speaks Housing Committee and Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA).

“Leslie’s brings to Autism Speaks more than 20 years of experience leading federal, state and local advocacy efforts, as well as expertise in housing, supported employment and the transition process for adolescents and young adults,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks vice president of Family Services. “As Autism Speaks increases its focus on the unmet needs of adults with autism, Leslie is the ideal person to spearhead our efforts in this area.”

Most recently, Long served as a consultant to both New Horizons in Autism, Inc. and the North Ward Center’s Center for Autism. Working with New Horizons in Autism, Long helped shape public policy efforts affecting constituents, including facilitating partnerships with key federal and state legislators. In addition, she wrote and implemented a grant to employ adults with autism in the area of digital imaging, and provided overall guidance and advocacy to the organization’s board, staff and families. Long assisted the North Ward Center’s Center for Autism in the development and implementation of its initial program serving adults with autism spectrum disorders -- one of the first adult programs specifically serving an urban community. 

Previously, Long was director of public policy and director of adult resources for Autism New Jersey. She served on the governor’s New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force, where she was successful in making recommendations for an Office of Autism Services that were later adopted in 2009. In addition, she was instrumental in passing a package of autism-related New Jersey bills that included first responders training and self-directed services protection.  

Long holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Stockton State College.

About Autism
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, and one in 70 boys. The prevalence of autism has increased 600 percent in the past two decades. 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 in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative new 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 $272 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 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 27 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 12 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
AutismSpeaks 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 boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, LLC, EMI Group Global Ltd and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wrightis 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 numerous awards such as the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership, NYU Child Advocacy Award, Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and The American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In May of 2010 they received Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees from St. John’s University in Queens and delivered the commencement address as the first married couple to be bestowed such an honor.