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Autism Speaks announces Royal Arch Masons fellowship

Career-launching fellowship will fund research into auditory processing in children who have autism

New York, N.Y. (May 10, 2016)Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, is pleased to announce its first Royal Arch Masons Predoctoral Fellowship. Royal Arch Masons Fellow Sophie Schwartz, of Boston University, will investigate how differences in the way the brain processes sound may interfere with language development in minimally verbal children who have autism.

“We are proud to sponsor a General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons Fellow,” says General Grand High Priest Louis E. Bartrand, of the General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International. “Her efforts, in conjunction with the other organizations and researchers that we support, may well produce discoveries about central auditory processing disorders that have eluded scientists in the past. We wish her well and look forward to hearing about her work in the near future.”

Since the 1970s, the Royal Arch Masons International have ranked among the world’s leading philanthropies helping children with central auditory processing disorders. Many children with autism have difficulty processing sound. This can include difficulty using and comprehending speech and/or paying attention to and remembering spoken information. Many of these children eventually receive a diagnosis of central auditory processing disorder in addition to their autism.

Ms. Schwartz’s research has the potential to guide the development of new interventions to support language development and other forms of communication in non-verbal and minimally verbal people who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She will conduct her research at Boston University under the guidance of developmental psychologist Helen Tager-Flusberg and auditory neuroscientist Barbara Shinn-Cunningham.

“There's a huge need to understand why some children with autism have such difficulty developing communication,” says Dr. Paul Wang, Autism Speaks senior vice president and head of medical research. “We greatly appreciate Ms. Schwartz’s plan for advancing understanding of these issues in ways that promise to shape more-effective interventions, and we’re very grateful to the Royal Arch Masons for making this fellowship possible.” 

In 2011, Autism Speaks and the Royal Arch Masons forged a special relationship that has included $1 million in pledged funding over seven years. The funding supports both the Autism Speaks Toddler Treatment Network and research into auditory processing in children who have autism. In addition, the funding has helped Autism Speaks educate healthcare providers and parents about the role that auditory processing symptoms can play in autism diagnosis and the importance of further evaluation for children who demonstrate auditory processing difficulties.

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, and repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum. 

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. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $570 million to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 70 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit