Autism Speaks mobilizes autism researchers to meet community needs during pandemic

May 21, 2020

NEW YORK -- Autism Speaks, in partnership with the Autism Science Foundation (ASF), working together with the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), today published the first in a series of resources from its new Autism Research Community COVID-19 Task Force to respond to the needs of the autism community in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The needs of autistic people and their families and caregivers are our top priority during this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Dr. Andy Shih, Autism Speaks vice president of public health and inclusion. “These needs are also as varied as the autism spectrum itself.”

People with autism of all ages and levels of need are experiencing disruptions in essential services and treatment interventions, which will ultimately impact their continued development and later outcomes in health, quality of life, education and employment.

To support these varied needs, Autism Speaks is leading the Autism Research Community COVID-19 Task Force to tap the rich knowledge and expertise of autism researchers, many of whose research is also on hold during the coronavirus outbreak.

Researchers are asked to produce and offer tools and resources for specific needs, according to the current stage of the pandemic, that people with autism and their families can use to navigate changes to daily public life. The task force rapidly reviews, assesses and distributes these tools to the public at

Examples of resources and tools include:

  • Parent training in behavior, speech or other therapy techniques
  • Communication supports
  • Technologies that support safe community engagement and activities

Autism researchers in disciplines across education, primary care, specialty care and behavioral health were asked to contribute their expertise by developing practical, evidence-based solutions to managing the many needs of autistic people forced to stay home by closures at school, work and public life. A steering committee, composed of representatives from partner organizations, coordinates the review and distribution of materials so they can be shared rapidly with anyone in need of support.

“While many researchers are homebound, our aim was to leverage their time and expertise to create materials for the range of support needs to help autistic children, teens and adults while their everyday lives are disrupted,” said Shih. “By coming together as a community, we can have a huge impact in supporting our families through this crisis.”