NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 20, 2013) – Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that it has been named a recommended, high-impact nonprofit in a Philanthropedia survey of leading experts. The recognition comes on the heels of an unprecedented year of action across each pillar of Autism Speaks’ mission to support the one in 88 individuals and families affected by autism spectrum disorder.
“We are honored to receive this acknowledgment,” said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks. “Since its inception, Autism Speaks has fought to make a positive difference for the autism community. The past year was truly one of the most successful in achieving that goal thanks to the tireless work of the countless volunteers, advocates, individuals and families who support our cause.”
In 2013, Autism Speaks committed close to $5 million in new funding through its Science grants and fellowships programs. This investment in innovative research will lead to improvements in diagnosis, personalized medical care and the development of new treatments. Through its Family Services grants, Autism Speaks committed $1.2 million to local service providers in 2013. The grants will help create new and expand existing local programs to improve and enrich the lives of individuals with autism.
With 500,000 adolescents with autism transitioning to adulthood within the next decade, Autism Speaks focused efforts to meet the needs of the growing adult autism population. A series of small business town halls took place across the U.S. to create employment opportunities for the autism community. In addition, Autism Speaks announced the results of a first-of-its-kind housing survey. The survey, which received more than 10,000 responses, will be used to foster new strategies for better access to housing and residential supports and more options for the autism community.
Following the disappearance of several individuals with autism, Autism Speaks committed itself to addressing the issue of wandering. A partnership was formed with the Guardian Angels to raise awareness of wandering and to provide families and caregivers assistance when a loved one who has autism goes missing. The Autism Speaks Autism Response Team can now be contacted and the Guardian Angels will mobilize a local team to assist with search efforts.
Autism Speaks also launched its Early Access to Care initiative to reduce the average age of diagnosis and increase access to high-quality early intervention for all children on the autism spectrum. A pilot program was formed with the National Black Church Initiative to raise autism awareness in the African American community, and autism screening events took place across the country to provide low income and minority families access to early intervention services. In conjunction with Early Access to Care, Autism Speaks launched a new PSA campaign with the Advertising Council to raise autism awareness in the African American and Latino communities. The PSAs are currently running in media outlets throughout the nation.
In November, Autism Speaks was joined by hundreds of advocates in Washington, DC for its first “Autism Speaks to Washington” autism policy and action summit. More than 260 parents and their children with autism, self-advocates, leading researchers and activists from across the nation took to the steps of Capitol Hill and visited all 535 members of Congress, demanding a strategic national autism plan.
As a result of the summit, five additional members of Congress have signed on to the Congressional Autism Caucus, a bipartisan group in Congress that helps lead the federal response to autism. In addition, 60 members of the Senate have now co-sponsored the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act – S. 313/H.R. 647). Introduced in the 113th Congress, this bill would provide an improved quality of life for individuals with disabilities through tax-free savings accounts.
On the global front, Autism Speaks’ awareness efforts continued to inspire millions of people. More than 8,400 buildings, landmarks and communities on all seven continents participated in the organization’s annual Light It Up Blue campaign by turning blue on World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. Autism Speaks’ international efforts also brought together 50 first-spouses and dignitaries at its World Focus on Autism in September. The annual event promotes autism awareness and highlights autism as a global public health issue around the world.
Autism Speaks concluded 2013 by donating 800 iPads to financially disadvantaged individuals with autism, as well as teachers and social workers. The iPads were mailed out just in time for the holidays to recipients in 46 states, marking the end of a dynamic year in support of the autism community.