This World Autism Month, Autism Speaks champions change with new Community Messengers

April 2, 2024

April 2, 2024 (New York, NY) – This World Autism Awareness Day, Autism Speaks is announcing the launch of its newly established Champions of Change program, introducing an inaugural class of five autistic advocates and spokespeople from around the country with a wide range of experiences, support needs and connections to autism. The program launch, part of Autism Speaks’ celebration of World Autism Month and in recognition of its nearly two decades of impact, marks an evolution of collaborating with and standing alongside members of the autistic community.

Autism Speaks’ Champions of Change will serve as messengers, advocates, allies and advisors for the nonprofit organization and to the autistic community at large — helping steer the future of the organization. Alongside Autism Speaks, the Champions stand fearlessly for a world where autistic people are recognized, valued, celebrated and afforded the opportunities they deserve. 

“It takes courage to share a very personal journey and advocate for one’s needs. Our Champions of Change embody the spirit of fearlessness in representing the wide range of stories from autistic people, caregivers and allies who make up our community,” said Keith Wargo, Autism Speaks President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are proud to amplify the voices of these advocates as they will play a vital role in creating an inclusive and accepting world for those living with autism by bringing to light the real needs of the community.”

Autism Speaks’ Inaugural Champions of Change

  • Alex Astrella, Los Angeles, CA, is a self-advocate, documentary filmmaker and founder of Blu Star Productions. Additionally, Alex holds a master's degree in special education, a field where he seamlessly blends his personal and professional experiences. His study of special education, insights into the ABA space and dedication to giving back to the autism community serve as the foundation of his work.
  • Victoria Handy, Jackson, MS, is an advocate for herself and her daughter with autism and is a dedicated behavior technician. Driven by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for advocacy, she pursued higher education, earning both a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in behavior analysis, working tirelessly to support autistic children and their families.
  • Tyler Haynes, St. Louis, MO, is an autistic individual and recent graduate of the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) SUCCEED Program and continues to enjoy his work as a guest services attendant at the UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center.
  • Tonya Haynes, St. Louis, MO, is a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in the College of Nursing and mother of Tyler Haynes. Since Tyler’s diagnosis of autism in 2003, Tonya has prioritized efforts aimed at enhanced understanding of how autism impacts her son and what she can do to help him reach his full potential.
  • Logan Slaughter, Harrison, AR, is a self-advocate and pursuing multiple projects including authoring a children’s book about the importance of autism acceptance. He believes that acceptance is the key to unlocking a world of understanding, love and support.

To show solidarity and support for Autism Speaks, New York City’s Empire State Building will shine a spectrum of colors on Tuesday, April 2nd, to mark World Autism Awareness Day and celebrate the diversity of the autism community.  

About Autism Speaks  

Autism Speaks is dedicated to creating an inclusive world for all individuals with autism throughout their lifespan. We do this through advocacy, services, supports, research and innovation, and advances in care for autistic individuals and their families. To find resources, join an event or make a donation, go to Learn more by following @AutismSpeaks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn.