A Student Advocate's Perspective on Autism Speaks

This year Stanford freshman Spencer Savitz has organized the first Walk Now for Autism Speaks event at the university. Savitz has already raised $850,000 in similar events since 2008. Recently he wrote an Op Ed for the Standford Daily about why he supports Autism Speaks. Read an excerpt from the article below.

"Recently, there was an article written in The Daily (“Autism, allyship and Autism Speaks,” May 27, 2014) that was critical of Autism Speaks, the Stanford Autism Walk and the newly approved Autism Speaks U Stanford chapter. I am the brother of a 16-year-old on the Autism Spectrum and the founder of those efforts here at Stanford, and I believe that the article deserves a response.

My intentions are not to criticize the author of that article, as she is entitled to her own opinions. But I believe that the presentation, in many ways, distorts the true accomplishments of Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks has invested more than $200 million in innovative research that has led to great progress in uncovering some of the mysteries of autism. It has also assisted in continuously decreasing the possible age of autism diagnosis, finding risk factors for autism and identifying genes involved with the disorder. In progress right now is the largest comprehensive genome-sequencing project in history, in which Autism Speaks will map the genomes of 10,000 people with autism to serve as a database for scientific study into diagnosis and personalized treatment for individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

Apart from research, Autism Speaks has also played a key role in the dramatic increase in autism awareness in the world via its Walk Now for Autism Speaks events – held in close to one hundred cities across North America and involving more than 340,000 walkers – between 2012 and 2013; its Light It Up Blue campaign on World Autism Awareness Day, in which over 8,400 buildings, landmarks and communities participated across all seven continents in 2013; and its advertising campaigns. Its Family Services Committee has also created toolkits to assist parents with everything from everyday tasks, such as brushing one’s teeth, to major life adjustments, such as the first hundred days after an autism diagnosis, the transition from adolescence to adulthood and finding employment. Finally, Autism Speaks has helped pass Autism Insurance Reform Bills in thirty-seven states, requiring these states to cover a portion of each family’s treatment expenses."