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This Month in Review - May 2012

May was another big month here at Autism Speaks! Take some time to read what has been happening!


* The clear science highlight for May is the IMFAR (International Meeting for Autism Research) conference, where Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation were the anchor sponsors. Autism Speaks and its science staff played pivotal roles in the success of this year's singular meeting of the world's autism researchers; over 2,000 attendees provided hundreds of abstracts and oral presentations on the latest autism research findings. Autism Speaks science staff joined with three guest bloggers (two on the autism spectrum and one with a severely affected child) to provide our community with a solid stream of IMFAR news and perspective. This included new findings on oxytocin, baby siblings of children with autism, DSM-5, preschool screening, global autism research, and much more. Click here for complete coverage - with news, commentary and video - on the special IMFAR 2012 page of our website.

* The top science news story for the month was Geri Dawson's Letter rom the CSO to our community: "DSM-5 Update: Field Testing" with over 10,000 unique views. Geri was also featured on National Public Radio's Marketplace, discussing the proposed revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).

* Geri was quoted in a USA Today story about the accelerating pace of autism science and Alycia Halladay was also quoted in HealthDay on the link between prenatal smoking and high-functioning kids with autism.

* Geri was quoted on a study finding that many children with autism are diagnosed late, by ABC News and ABC Radio and spoke with WebMD about a study highlighting a need for improvement in earlier diagnosis of autism and access to therapies and other services.

* Joe Horrigan hosted "The Doctors Are In" as part of Geri Dawson and Joe's ongoing series of webchats held on the first Thursday of every month. He was joined by Robert Hendren, DO, director of child/adolescent psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Hendren is an expert on nutritional and complementary interventions for autism.


* Two states passed expansion bills during the month of May that will make autism insurance benefits available to a larger proportion of their populations. Vermont a law that increased the upper age limit from 6 years of age to 21. And Louisiana, passed an amendment that increases their age cap from 16 to 21 and eliminates the $144,000 cap on lifetime benefits. 

* On May 14th, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment that would assure all members of the military, regardless of their duty status, would receive autism insurance benefits for their dependents. The vote came on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was sponsored by Representative John Larson (CT-D). Congressman Larson's amendment clarifies that coverage under TRICARE, the Department of Defense insurance program, should include medically necessary behavioral health treatments for autism, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). It also removes dollar limitations on ABA care and works to provide coverage for all TRICARE eligible dependents with autism regardless of their sponsor's duty status. A similar amendment, introduced by Senator Kristin Gillibrand (NY-D) in the Senate failed to succeed in the Armed Services Subcommittee for Personnel in late May but we expect other options to be pursued for a favorable outcome in the Senate later in June.
* Autism Speaks came out in strong support of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's Protection of People with Special Needs Act which he proposed on May 14th in response to a series of reports in The New York Times detailing abuse of the disabled, including people with autism. 

* Andy Shih joined two researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a Congressional briefing on the CDC's new autism prevalence numbers. Hosted by the co-chairs of the Congressional Autism Caucus, Reps. Chris Smith [R-NJ] and Mike Doyle [D-PA], the briefing took place as Congress was deciding whether to eliminate funding for continue autism research. Shih discussed the results of an Autism Speaks-funded study regarding the costs of autism to society. The funding issue involves a proposed $21.3 million appropriation for FY13 for the CDC to continue autism research. 

* Suzanne and Bob Wright were honored to give the 2012 Fairfield University Commencement Address; click here for a video and here for an article.

* Suzanne and Bob Wright were also mentioned in a story on children with autism enjoying a Broadway performance after the Theater Development Fund created a new autism-friendly version of the popular musical 'Mary Poppins' by toning down the show's bright lights and loud noises. Click here for NBC's Anne Thompson's report. 

* Enjoy Westchester/Fairfield Walk Now for Autism Speaks top team's very own Ethan Walmark on the Today Show sharing his piano talents! Check out more here!

* Peter Bell was featured in an AP story about young adults with autism. 

* Alycia Halladay also spoke with CBS news, CNN and WebMD about research finding that head lag may be an early red flag of autism in 6-month-year olds. The story also ran on Autistic Disorder Info, Facts for Moms, Peoples Almanac, Medical Web Times, BioSpace, Liberal Round Up, All Voices and Impule-Your-Answers.

* Joe Horrigan was also quoted by Bloomberg News in a story reporting that more than half of all children with autism are taking prescribed behavioral medications, and the story was mirrored on Bloomberg Business Week.

* Film Screenings for "I Want to Say," a short documentary on autism and technology providing for breakthrough communication for individuals with autism were held in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago; Temple Grandin called in for a Q&A for the CA screening.

* The BIG awareness event last weekend, that is too good not to mention in this report, was the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway, thanks to Mike Glenn and Artie Kempner who once again made this possible. More to come in June's report, while click here for an article in the Dover Post as a teaser. 


* Multiple corporate promotions reported record numbers- TJ Maxx finished their campaign at a new record of $1,467,000 which is $217K more than last year; Build-A-Bear finished at $170,000; Casey's General Store brought in $292K, 37% ahead of last year, and Home Depot raised $245K from light bulb and lantern sales-thank you Bernie Marcus! And Dollar General brought in $713K- thank you Adrian Jones! 

* The spring walk season continues to be in full swing this past month with 12 Walks in total. Eight of the Walks are expected to hit or exceed budget. Special thanks to Sallie Bernard, who served as our Honorary Chair for our Colorado event, which is one of the eight events expected to hit. This year's Northern NJ Walk event was extremely special as our staff was able to highlight the wonderful partnership that our organization has with Toys "R" Us, as many of their leadership team were in attendance this year. In Atlanta, we were honored to have Bernie and Billi Marcus with us once again as they greeted and cheered on over 11,000 walkers. Autism Speaks was extremely grateful to be the recipient of the Home Depot check presentation during the opening ceremonies, for the outstanding efforts Home Depot displayed with this year's Light It Up Blue campaign. Last, the St. Louis Chapter's first ever Chefs Gala event exceeded its goal raising over $100,000, and over 200 guests joined this spectacular evening. 

* Rich Brown and Rob Ring met with the Allerton Foundation, who agreed to renew a $1 million grant to Autism Speaks. Also, the Higgins Family from Los Angeles committed to a $350,000 gift and Charles and Helen Dolan gave $10,000 in honor of Suzanne and Bob Wright. A presentation was given to the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation that looks promising, and the NYSE Foundation invited us to submit a proposal that would be $25,000 over last year's $50,000 gift- thank you Alison Niederauer. BTIG's Annual Charity Day resulted in a $50,000 donation, double what they contributed last year (thank you Alison). Additionally, we were invited to submit a proposal concept to AMEX (thank you Dan Schulman!) that also looks promising.


The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.