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Dean’s Medal of Honor for Bob and Suzanne Wright

Bob Wright, Co-founder of Autism Speaks, accepted the Dean’s Medal of Honor for Global Leadership in Autism Research and Advocacy from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University today. Suzanne Wright was not in attendance but was also awarded a medal.

Mr. Wright thanked Dean Michael Klag and welcomed the addition of the Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at Johns Hopkins. He told the audience what life was like nine years ago when his first grandson Christian was diagnosed with autism and his daughter Katie was all but sent home with little information and even less hope.

The Wrights’ answer was to start Autism Speaks, and in the eight years since its inception, “autism” is well on its way to becoming a household word. Our awareness campaign really has worked incredibly well, he said. People in every corner of the globe now know the signs and symptoms. They know they need help, he said. 

While continuing to raise awareness, he urged researchers to sharpen their own observational skills, and really listen to the parents of grandparents of children affected by autism.  He said they have laser-like focus because often they have no choice—their children often do not speak or do not speak well.

Mr. Wright also urged scientists to delve more deeply into the area of gastro-intestinal research. He spoke at length of the GI issues many children suffer, including his grandson Christian. He said the gut may be the next frontier in the study of autism and promised to add more GI-related research to the Autism Speaks agenda in the near future, as well as expand the Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health initiative.

Watch the full speech below: