NEW YORK, NY (December 18, 2008) – Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism advocacy organization, has been officially designated a non-governmental organization (NGO) associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI). This new designation will enable Autism Speaks to reach a new global audience in its efforts to promote the dignity, equal rights, social progress and better standards of life for individuals with autism. As the DPI's first and only associated organization devoted to autism, Autism Speaks is committed to increasing autism awareness and recognition, service delivery and research collaboration around the world.
Autism Speaks has worked closely with the DPI/NGO section since June 2007, participating in two DPI briefing events regarding autism. The idea for an international day for autism was first proposed at one of these briefings, and just a few months later, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 62/139 designating April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) in perpetuity. Autism Speaks provided critical support to the State of Qatar, under the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, in its initiative to make WAAD possible. The inaugural WAAD was celebrated in over 40 countries on six continents and received extensive media coverage, bringing the message of autism awareness to hundreds of millions of people around the world. The second World Autism Awareness Day will be marked on April 2, 2009.
“Autism is a disorder that affects families of all nationalities and ethnicities, and it is imperative that autism advocacy and research efforts transcend borders as well,” said Suzanne Wright, Autism Speaks co-founder. “We are very grateful to the United Nations Department of Public Information for this recognition, and for the opportunity to play a central role in meeting the challenges of this global health crisis.”
According to the United Nations, an NGO is a ”not-for-profit, voluntary citizens group, which is organized on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good. Task-oriented and made up of people with common interests, NGOs perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring citizens' concerns to governments, monitor policy and program implementation, and encourage participation of civil society stakeholders at the community level.” As an associated NGO, Autism Speaks will be committed to participating in UN/DPI organized briefings and events; to disseminating information about autism and the work of the United Nations both locally and worldwide; and to engaging the participation of all levels of society to bring hope to individuals and families affected by autism.
Autism Speaks' application for NGO status was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the United States' National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (CIHR).
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.