NEW YORK, N.Y. (March 9, 2010) – Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today announced the appointment of autism advocate and author John Elder Robison to its Scientific Advisory and Scientific Treatment Boards, which form the core of Autism Speaks' grant review process.
Robison serves as an adjunct professor in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Elms College in Chicopee, Mass. He has also served on the public review board for the National Institutes of Mental Health, and is currently involved in TMS autism research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is the author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's. His writing has been translated into 18 languages and is sold in more than 60 countries. Robison's next book, Be Different!, will be published in the spring of 2011.
“It's a great honor to be selected for this role in autism science and advocacy, first by the government and now by Autism Speaks,” said Robison. “I'm aware that my vote is only one among thirty, but the fact that I myself am on the spectrum will make a difference, and I certainly believe in speaking up for whatever I support.” (Read a post from Robison on the Autism Speaks Blog).
“It is essential that our grant funding reflects the needs and perspectives of the community we serve, namely, people with autism spectrum disorders,” said Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer at Autism Speaks. “We are very pleased to welcome John to our scientific review boards. His insight and skills will prove invaluable.”
Advisory Board members – who include research professionals as well as representatives with a family member diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder – review the research applications submitted to Autism Speaks, ranging from basic to clinical to treatment research. They are responsible for ensuring each proposal has scientific rigor, innovation and relevance to the mission of the organization. Robison will participate in the grant review meetings and provide insight on the relevance of each grant application to the needs of the autism community.
Autism is a complex neurobiological 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 110 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006. 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 the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception only five short years ago, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $142.5 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families through 2014. The organization 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. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks also supports the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council which has received over $210 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a community grant program and much more. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.
About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks 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. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, RAND Corporation and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards including the CHILD Magazine Children's Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women's Division In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism advocacy.