Autism Speaks Announces Partnership with the National Autism Association to Provide Funding for “Big Red Safety Boxes” for Families of Individuals with Autism at Risk of Wandering

NEW YORK, N.Y. (February 14, 2012) – Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that it has awarded $30,000 in funding to the National Autism Association (NAA) to provide 1,000 Big Red Safety Boxes to families of individuals with autism.

The Big Red Safety Box is a valuable tool for caregivers as a means to educate, raise awareness and share simple tools that can assist in preventing, and responding to, wandering-related incidents in the autism community. The Big Red Safety Box contains educational materials, such as a caregiver checklist, a Family Wandering Emergency Plan, a sample IEP letter that can be used to implement prevention and response protocols in school, along with safety products, including two GE Door Alarms, one Who’s Shoe ID, and five laminated adhesive stop sign visual prompts for doors and windows. Big Red Safety Boxes are provided free-of-charge to families with a loved one at risk of wandering. While supplies last, they can be requested at this link: http://www.nationalautismassociation.org/bigredsafetybox.htm.

The Big Red Safety Box program was designed and launched by NAA last year. The number of requests from families was overwhelming, with NAA distributing its entire inventory of 2,000 kits in just six days. Big Red Safety Boxes are packaged and shipped with care by a company employing adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

“The National Autism Association has taken on a leadership role in raising awareness about the dangers of wandering and elopement for some individuals with autism,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks vice president of Family Services. “NAA’s Big Red Safety Boxes provide the necessary resources to help prevent potentially dangerous situations, and we are proud to partner with the NAA to fund more of these valuable tools for families across the country.”

“Wandering-related injuries and deaths happen with startling frequency in the Autism community. We are aware of at least 80 incidents in the last six months alone,” 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 partnering with NAA on this vitally important program for families.”

Autism Speaks and the National Autism Association are both involved with the Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education (AWAARE) Collaboration, a working group of six national non-profit autism organizations whose mission is to reduce autism-related wandering incidents and deaths. 

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 social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $173 million to research and developing innovative 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 $316 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 Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, 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 29 states thus far, with legislation continuing to advance in more states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 85 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 and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than 20 years; and is a graduate of the College of Holy Cross and the University of Virginia School of Law. He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, EMI Group Global Ltd., and AMC Networks Inc., and is a Trustee of the New York Presbyterian hospital. Suzanne Wright is 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 the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School.