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Calls to Action

Autism Speaks Launches New Ad Council Campaign – “Maybe”

May 20, 2013

Extending its award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign, Autism Speaks today launched the “Maybe” campaign, a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) designed to reach African American and Hispanic parents. According to research, children in these communities are often diagnosed later than the national average. The PSAs, which are being distributed to media outlets nationwide this week, show some of the early signs of autism and encourage parents to take immediate action if their child is not meeting standard developmental milestones. Read a story on the campaign launch from the New York Times.

According to the CDC, the average age of diagnosis is 4-5 years, but a reliable autism diagnosis can be made as early as 18-24 months. While early detection is critical, research shows that many parents have very little knowledge about autism and its symptoms. The current age of diagnosis among low income families, as well as African Americans and Hispanics, is higher than the general public. With appropriate early intervention services from ages 3-5, between 20 percent and 50 percent of children diagnosed with autism will be able to attend mainstream kindergarten.

The new “Maybe” PSAs show parents observing the unusual behavior or non-reaction of their child in seemingly ordinary situations. A child’s lack of eye contact, babbling or big smiles invite parental worry and speculation: “maybe it’s this” or “maybe it’s that.” Showing the subtle presence of potential problems in otherwise everyday instances, the PSAs emphasize that these “maybes” are reasons enough for parents to consult their pediatrician or primary care provider for further screening. The PSAs encourage parents to seek further information about the early signs of autism and additional screening resources at and for Spanish information.


In addition to the “Maybe” PSAs, Autism Speaks kicked off its Early Access to Care initiative to reduce the average age of autism diagnosis and increase access to screening and evidence-based early intervention services. Autism Speaks’ Early Access to Care initiative focuses on reaching out to underserved communities, utilizing new and existing technologies, leveraging local community resources, engaging federal and state partners, using parents and para-professionals as dissemination channels and training providers of screening, diagnosis and intervention techniques. The program includes new website information and resources, screening events with volunteer clinicians, coordinated activities with federal and regional partners, training opportunities for professionals and the distribution of research findings, tools and resources.

“We know we can diagnose children sooner, and the earlier the diagnosis occurs, the faster a child can start receiving intervention, resulting in better outcomes,” said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. “While we have seen a great increase in awareness thanks to our partnership with the Ad Council, many parents still don’t know what red flags to look for in their children’s behavior and development. If a parent has a concern, they should not wait – they should talk to a pediatrician immediately.&rdquo

In conjunction with the launch of the campaign, Autism Speaks is also educating through text message. People are encouraged to learn the signs of autism by answering six simple questions via text message*. Users can text MAYBE to 30644 to begin or in Spanish, text QUIZAS to 30644.

Since the launch of the “Learn the Signs” campaign in 2006, the percentage of parents of young children who have spoken with their doctor about autism has increased by more than 60 percent (from 8 to 13 percent) and the number of parents who say autism is very or somewhat common among young children has increased from 45 to 65 percent.

The new “Maybe” PSAs were created pro bono by Autism Speaks’ award-winning lead creative agency BBDO and LatinWorks. The ads will air and run in advertising time and space entirely donated by the media. Since the launch of the campaign, media outlets have donated nearly $376 million in time and space for the ads. The PSAs have also earned numerous awards, including an Effie Award for advertising effectiveness in 2008, a Silver Telly in 2009, a Silver Addy and Gold Ogilvy in 2011.

*Standard message and data rates may apply.