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Autism Speaks to Provide Funding for “Big Red Safety Boxes" for Families of Individuals with Autism

NEW YORK, N.Y. (February 14, 2014) – Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that it has awarded $50,000 in funding to the National Autism Association (NAA) to provide 1500 Big Red Safety Boxes to families of individuals with autism who are at risk of wandering.

The Big Red Safety Box is a valuable tool for caregivers of children and adults on the autism spectrum. A 2012 study by the Interactive Autism Network, funded in-part by Autism Speaks, reported that 49 percent of people with autism are prone to wandering. Some individuals with autism also may not fully understand danger, and can become attracted to distant objects and bodies of water. This poses a significant threat to the safety and well-being of those with autism who are prone to wandering.

The Big Red Safety Box is designed to educate and raise awareness to assist in preventing and responding to wandering-related incidents in the autism community. The Be REDy booklet, included with the box, contains essential educational resources to support families of individuals at risk of wandering, such as a Caregiver Checklist, a Family Wandering Emergency Plan, a Student Profile Form and a sample IEP letter that can be used to implement prevention and response protocols in schools.

The Big Red Safety Box also contains various safety products, including two GE Door Alarms, a personalized RoadID shoe tag and five laminated adhesive stop sign visual prompts for doors and windows. Big Red Safety Boxes are provided free-of-charge. While supplies last, they can be requested at NAA’s website.

The Big Red Safety Box program was created and launched by NAA in 2011. The number of requests from families was overwhelming after the launch, with NAA distributing its entire initial inventory of 2,000 kits in just six days. Since then, the organization has distributed an additional 5,500 boxes to families in the autism community. Big Red Safety Boxes are packaged and shipped by a company employing adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

“Resources like the Big Red Safety Box are critical to helping families learn more about the dangers of wandering, as well as strategies to put in place to prevent the frightening situations that arise from these individuals’ tendency to wander,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks vice president of Family Services. “We are proud to partner with the National Autism Association to fund more of these valuable tools for families with loved ones at risk of wandering across the country.”

“Wandering-related injuries and deaths happen with startling frequency in the Autism community,” said Wendy Fournier, NAA President. “With a multi-layered approach to prevention and coordinated response, the Big Red Safety Box program is designed to save lives. We are extremely grateful to Autism Speaks for generously donating to this vitally important program for families.”

Autism Speaks and the National Autism Association are both involved with the AWAARE Collaboration, a working group of six national non-profit autism organizations whose mission is to reduce autism-related wandering incidents and deaths. For more information, visit awaare.org.

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.