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For the Record

Why our mission has been updated 

Under the guidance and leadership of Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright, Autism Speaks made extraordinary advancements since it was founded in 2005. Chief among these are increasing global awareness of autism, developing a better understanding of the breadth of the autism spectrum, and using advocacy to increase federal funding for research and access to care and support.

Today the national board and field leadership recognize that as the needs of the autism community have evolved so has Autism Speaks’ mission. Today, Autism Speaks is dedicated to:

  • Advancing research into causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorder
  • Increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder
  • And working toward solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families across the spectrum and life span through advocacy and support

Why the word “cure” has been removed from our mission statement

Thanks to research funded by Autism Speaks and others, we now know that there is no single “autism.” Science also tells us there will be no single “cure.” Autism is a spectrum disorder with many subtypes that affect people in vastly different ways. To best address their diverse needs, we remain committed to discovering and accelerating progress toward personalized treatments as well as understanding the causes of autism. We are also committed to greater discovery for people who would benefit from better treatments for co-existing conditions, such as GI issues, sleep disorder, seizures and anxiety.

How we help people who are facing significant challenges

Autism Speaks is steadfast in our commitment to support people with autism and deliver solutions and supports to help people both today and in the future across the spectrum and life span.

It is important to understand that every individual with autism is unique. Many of those on the autism spectrum have exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have average to above average intellectual abilities. However, others with autism have significant disability and are unable to live independently. About one-third of people with ASD are nonverbal but some can learn to communicate using other means. Approximately 50 percent of children with autism attempt to wander or bolt from a safe, supervised place, and for a significant number of people this continues into adulthood. For a subset of those with autism, aggressive and in some cases self-injurious behaviors occur, impeding independence and community life.

To address these challenges, Autism Speaks is continuing to advance research into the causes of autism, personalized treatments and co-occurring conditions through science initiatives such as the MSSNG genomic research project. We also provide direct care through the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN), a collaboration of 13 specialty centers across the U.S. and Canada. And we offer more than 40 Autism Speaks Tool Kits that provide valuable information for people across the entire autism spectrum and their families throughout each stage of life. 

Our Autism Response Team (ART) is also available to help. ART members are trained to answer questions from families and to help to connect them with local resources. ART can be reached at 888-AUTISM2 or en Español at 888-772-9050.

Our commitment to everyone on the autism spectrum

Autism Speaks supports everyone affected by autism and recognizes the diverse viewpoints within our community. By fostering acceptance and understanding of autism, our goal is for all people on the spectrum, no matter how they self-identify, to be appreciated for who they are and for the contributions they can make to society. That said, many aspects of autism can be significantly debilitating, and that is why efforts to improve and deliver scientific breakthroughs are so important, with the goal of enabling those on the autism spectrum to be the best they can be – with autism.   

People with autism work and volunteer at Autism Speaks, and they serve on our board of directors

Two people with autism serve on the national Board of Directors, and others are employed in a variety of positions at Autism Speaks. In addition, many of our advocates and partners who have autism play a key role in raising understanding and acceptance around the globe.

What we fund

More than 75 percent of every dollar Autism Speaks spends funds programs and services in science, family services, advocacy, and increasing understanding and acceptance, exceeding Better Business Bureau guidelines each year. The majority of this funding goes toward science, followed by our family services, awareness and advocacy efforts. As we continue to implement our new strategic plan, we are working toward increasing funding in every mission area so that a significant impact is made for everyone affected by autism.     

Autism Speaks’ position on vaccines

Each family has a unique experience with an autism diagnosis, and for some it corresponds with the timing of their child’s vaccinations. At the same time, over the last two decades there has been extensive research to determine whether there is a link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research is that vaccines do not cause autism. 

We oppose the use of aversion therapy

We are opposed to aversion therapy and do not support or endorse organizations that engage in its use as a form of treatment for autism.