NEW YORK, NY (December 18, 2008) – Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism advocacy organization, today announced that its board of directors has approved more than $380,000 in funding for twenty-one Family Services Community Grants, for a total of over $1.4 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).
“Service providers across the country are doing truly remarkable and innovative work to enhance the quality of life for those living with autism,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks Executive Vice President of Programs and Services. “We are delighted to support their efforts and encourage others to replicate these model programs.”
For a list of all grant recipients, click here.
In July, Autism Speaks invited autism service providers to submit grant applications that addressed one of the following areas of need: Education, Recreation/Community Activities, Equipment/Supportive Technology or Young Adult/Adult Services. Autism Speaks received 238 applications from organizations in 41 states and Canada.
The funding for the twenty-one grants falls into the following categories: Recreation/Community Activities -- nine grants totaling $161,340; Education -- six grants totaling $113,224; Young Adult/Adult Services -- five grants totaling $88,740; and Equipment/Supportive Technology -- one grant totaling $16,849. Geographically, the grants will support eight programs in the Northeast, five programs in the Southeast, four programs in the Western region of the country, and four programs in the Midwest.
The Recreation/Community Activities proposals provide individuals with ASD with a variety of opportunities to develop recreational interests in supportive and inclusive environments. Many of the proposals utilize volunteers to work with individuals with ASD, further expanding awareness and acceptance. For example, one proposal in the Northeast focuses on a volunteer recreational running partner program. Another proposal in the Midwest will fund an after school social skills group that utilizes typically developing peers to foster support and friendship both in the school environment and through community-based activities.
In the area of Education, there continues to be a great deal of collaboration between trainers, educators and families to address the needs of people with ASD. Consistent across the proposals funded in this area is hands-on training, multiple training sessions and ongoing supervision and support for those being trained. Parent training is also a strong component to increase the generalization of skills across different environments. Among the innovative proposals is one in the Southeast that will train teachers and therapists in a summer camp setting for students with ASD. This model is the expansion of a successful existing program and provides support and services to students during the summer months while increasing the cadre of trained specialists that will work with children during the school year. Another educational proposal from the Western region of the country focuses on the ongoing training and development of paraprofessionals working with students with ASD (K-12) in inclusive educational settings.
Young Adult/Adult Services continues to be an area of heightened importance for families as increasing numbers of children with ASD are entering adulthood. For this round, the proposals in this category represented 11% of the applicants, yet this category represents 23% of the funding. There are a variety of innovative programs that address important needs of young adults and adults with ASD. One such proposal in the Southeast focuses on the transition process and providing the information needed to successfully transition from educational services to adult services. Another successful proposal in the Northeast provides ongoing training and support for individuals with Asperger Syndrome and will focus on life skills such as money management, housekeeping, nutrition, hygiene and grooming, and health and sexuality.
A two-tier review process was used to assess each grant application. In the first tier, each proposal was reviewed by both the parent of a child with autism who had experience in the area of need and an autism professional with expertise in that same area. To help ensure objectivity, proposals were assigned to reviewers located in a different geographic location from the applicant. A total of 111 proposals that earned an established minimum score were reviewed by members of the Autism Speaks Family Services Committee (FSC).
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 listed in Autism Speaks' Family Services Resource Guide as part of an ongoing effort to connect families with resources in their area. During the first half of 2009, Autism Speaks will begin to publish the outcomes from its first and second rounds of Family Services Community Grants on autismspeaks.org and through e-Speaks. The hope is that this initiative will provide the information needed to replicate successful programs and the expansion of services for individuals with ASD.
A request for applications for the next round of Family Services Community Grants will be announced in early 2009.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by 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 prevalence 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 both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.