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Calls to Action

Science Ambassador Program Launches at Autism Speaks

November 11, 2009

Autism Speaks is pleased to announce the launch of the new Science Ambassador Program. The program is volunteer-based, offering individuals interested in advancing the science mission of Autism Speaks an opportunity to work directly with the science and field staff. Ambassadors are trained to serve as liaisons to help educate the community about Autism Speaks' science programs in order to advance their understanding,

participation and support of our efforts to advance autism research. Under the supervision of the science staff, ambassadors will work with their local field staff, their local researchers and members of the community to increase public awareness of current events in science, ongoing clinical trials and Autism Speaks' funded research.

Additionally, through a private, on-line community specifically created for Science Ambassadors, volunteers can interact with the science and field staff of Autism Speaks and ask questions about the current state of the science. The science staff will work with ambassadors to answer questions and provide research updates to help them stay informed of advances in autism research, public and fundraising events as well as provide them with a forum so that they can network among their fellow ambassadors

For more details about the Science Ambassador Program, click here.

If being an Autism Speaks Science Ambassador (SA) is of interest to you, contact your local field staff leader or email the program director directly. We will help you get started.

Below are comments from some of our volunteers and why they choose to be an Autism Speaks Science Ambassador.

Betty Wright
By being a science ambassador, I get the privilege of helping other families know about the work the research community is doing for autism as well as to help others in the community who will be "touched" by autism better understand it. That is the very thing Autism Speaks is trying to achieve. Find out autism's modus operandi if you will. There are people out there, many of them who are just like I USED to be. Front line teachers, doctors, therapists, coaches, day-care workers, churches, are just a few who will be "touched" by autism. They need to know. I'm pretty sure they want to know, and would be willing to help if they were educated about autism.

I want to be able to help the next set of parents who have an autistic child. To keep them from having to go through what I went through. It doesn't have to be that way. It's already getting better. But it's not completely there yet. Being able to inform as many people as possible about the possibilities available when programs such as the Autism Tissue Program (ATP) receive a precious brain donation is extremely important for the success of autism research. Their faces literally light up when they know there is a way they can help tremendously by donating their brain post-mortem. Most of them are already organ donors, and were not aware there is a need for brain tissue. Then they tell someone. And we know how that works!

Yasmin Shikina
I am an RN and a mom that has a passion for autism and the science behind it. I want to channel my energy and interest in research and science somewhere. I was so excited to come upon the science ambassador program. I want to be a part of autism anyway I can.

I believe that educating the public and bringing awareness to autism is essential to the success of our children. I believe in giving back to the community, that's why I wanted to volunteer and put my efforts where I can make a difference. I say that because if my pediatrician and the teachers that where around my son where aware of autism he would have been diagnosed much sooner. The best way I can give back to the community is to stay informed of what is going on in the autism community, particularly in science, and share that information.

Melinda Elliot
My son, Brian, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 1/2. He is now 15. Over the years, I have seen great increases in interest and awareness of autism. Obviously there is much more to be done. My husband and I are both pediatricians (both sub-specialists), and we are still frequently overwhelmed with the day to day disasters no one has answers for. When the science ambassador program first started at the D.C meeting, I jumped at the chance to participate. I talk with my patients' every day, translating medical jargon into plain English. I thought I could help do the same with autism, helping to get more people to understand this horrible disease, and hopefully, getting them to participate in getting to a cure! I am hoping for more involvement as my daughter leaves for college and I have more time to devote to this program.

Allison Blain
I became a SA because I had several friends with children who are autistic. Until I met these families, I had never heard of autism, and I had 4 grown children!! I felt unable to do anything for them, as I watched their struggle to reach the child 'within' their child. I wanted to try to spread the word about autism so that we could make life better for these kids and their families. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and these families need our power!!! The ATP program was the information source for me, and I used my position in the community to spread the word about autism. I have been accepted by our local group of families as they organized and carried out walks for the past 4 years, and each year I have a table full of information for the public, explaining our programs and educating them in services available. Believe me, many of these attendees educated ME with some of the things they have had to do to obtain services for their child. I have learned to be an advocate for our cause to local politicians, too, and they quickly respond when I send them an email supporting upcoming legislation that will help our families.

I am looking forward to the expansion of this program, and am excited at the possibilities for the future!! With any luck, autism will disappear; but, our affected families will still be out there, looking for information and support, and it is up to us to stand with them. I am proud to be a part of this program, and will continue to teach the public, and will know that the work we did, the speeches we gave, the questions we answered all added to the solution needed to finally understand, and contain, autism in our world.

A. Blenham
Science Ambassadors strive to share knowledge about current research, and assist others to find resources and information. With knowledge, comes power – an educated community can be an influential one. So much has changed since our son was young. We are encouraged by the heightened awareness surrounding autism, and the dedication of those researching its causes. More research is essential, and support from all will be necessary to keep the momentum going. There is so much that has to be done. As a SA, I hope to provide as much support as possible, and to give something back to those who have helped us throughout our son's life, and to make things a bit easier for those beginning, or well along, their own journeys.