White House Announces Intent to Appoint Autism Speaks Executive Peter Bell to President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities

New York, N.Y. (January 11, 2012) – The White House has announced that the President intends to appoint Autism Speaks Executive Vice President of Programs and Services Peter Bell to serve on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, which advises the President and Secretary of Health and Human Services on issues that impact people with intellectual disabilities and their quality of life.

The Committee consists of 21 citizen members appointed by the President and 13 ex officio (Federal Government) members designated by the President.  Their charge is to “improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and uphold their right to enjoy a quality of life that promotes independence, self-determination, and full participation as productive members of society.”  The Committee’s goals include “the assurance of full citizenship rights, the reduction of the occurrence and severity of intellectual disabilities and the promotion of forward thinking programs and services and cutting edge assistive technologies to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.”

Bell, the father of a teenage son with autism,oversees Autism Speaks’government relations and family services activities and also serves as an advisor to the science division.  He serves on numerous boards and commissions, including as co-founder and president of Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism(AFAA), chair of the Community Advisory Committeeof the International Society for Autism Research(INSAR), and former chair and member of the Integration Panel of the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs for autism research. 

“We are thrilled about Peter’s well-deserved nomination to this important advisory committee,” said Mark Roithmayr, Autism Speaks president.  “As always, he will bring incredible knowledge, personal experience and exceptional passion to the job and will undoubtedly be an effective and influential voice on the President’s Committee.”

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 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 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 $300 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 bills pending in an additional 10 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
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; and as the 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, 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.