NEW YORK, NY (June 26, 2008) – Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism advocacy organization, today announced that its board of directors has approved more than $450,000 in funding for twenty-one Family Services Community Grants, for a total of over $1 million in such grants to date. These grants will help community organizations across the country expand existing programs to serve more individuals with autism, and create new programs that demonstrate true innovation in providing services to improve and enrich the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
In February, Autism Speaks invited autism service providers to submit grant applications that addressed at least one of the following areas of need: Education, Recreation/Community Activities, Equipment/Supportive Technology and Young Adult/Adult Services. Autism Speaks received 370 applications from organizations in 46 states and Canada. For a list of all grant recipients, click here.
“These grant recipients are doing remarkable, innovative work to deliver important services to individuals with autism across the country,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “In addition to providing financial support to these worthy programs, we are gaining and sharing valuable information about service delivery models that can and should be replicated elsewhere.”
The funding for the twenty-one grants falls into the following categories: Education -- nine grants totaling $184,000; Recreation/Community Activities -- eight grants totaling $180,000; Young Adult/Adult Services -- three grants totaling $73,000; and Equipment/Supportive Technology -- one grant totaling $20,000. Geographically, the grants support six programs in the Midwest, six programs in the Northeast, five programs in the Southeast, and four programs in the Western region of the country.
The education grants feature a high degree of collaboration between organizations to provide optimal programming. In addition, several of the education grants incorporate training for families to ensure consistency across home and school for the learner with autism. Many of the proposals funded have several modules or components for on-going training, while others have a hands–on training element. One proposal will focus on offering continuing legal education courses to practicing attorneys who wish to enhance their knowledge of special education law. Additionally, they will seek to train education professionals and parents of children with autism who are unfamiliar with special education law, enabling them to better serve the needs of children with autism. Another education grant will focus on providing behavioral services to families and educators in an underserved community for a thirty-nine-week period, as well as quarterly training to local school districts over a twelve-month period.
In the recreation and community activities category, grant recipients will focus on summer camp, after-school social skills programs and fitness and exercise. Specific grants include a collaborative after-school program for students with moderate to mild autism to provide recreation, education and social skills training in an inclusive environment. Another proposal focuses on social skills training for 12–15 year-old learners with autism that will include peer modeling and inclusion opportunities. Concurrent parent training will increase the carryover of these skills at home.
The three programs funded in the area of young adults and adults services specifically address the transition, life skills and employment needs of young adults and adults with autism. One grant focuses on autism-specific employment support in an underserved community. In addition to working with individuals with autism, the grant will provide training to potential employers. Another grant will focus on the transition process of secondary school student with autism and the specific goals that need to be put in place during the transition process which will result in employment opportunities when the individuals leave the educational system.
A two-tier review process, including both professional and parent reviewers, was used to assess each grant application.
The reviewers considered the following criteria for each proposal:
- Field building – The grant's impact on increasing services (new opportunities) and the capacity of service providers.
- Numbers served – The number of individuals currently being served by the program and its ability to expand to serve more people.
- Innovation – The creativity of the proposal.
- Ability to replicate – The viability of the program as a model for the development of similar programs.
- Clarity – The extent of the proposal's defined interim and outcome measures.
- Cost effectiveness – Proposals must demonstrate cost effectiveness and include a reasonable, detailed line item budget.
- Credibility – The qualifications of the organization, its principals and advisors.
- Sustainability/viability – The ability to continue the project beyond this funding cycle
All appropriate applicants will be entered into the Autism Speaks Family Services Resource Guide to provide families with access to an ever-expanding universe of resources. In an effort to promote further replication and expansion of effective services, later this year Autism Speaks will begin to share the outcomes of the programs the organization funded via Family Services Community Grants at the end of 2007.
A request for applications for the next round of Family Services Community Grants will be announced in late July with an anticipated deadline of late September.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. It 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 served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks merged with the Autism Coalition for Research and Education (ACRE), the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org