Autism Speaks Marks Ten Years of Progress

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Improving lives through awareness, science, advocacy and family services

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Today Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, is marking ten years since it was founded by Suzanne and Bob Wright after their grandson was diagnosed with autism. Since then, the organization has made great strides. It has committed more than $525 million, primarily to science and medical research, into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism. Prevalence is skyrocketing: Ten years ago, 1 in 166 children were diagnosed with autism. Today, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, it is 1 in 68.

“When our grandson Christian was diagnosed, there was nowhere for families to turn,” said Suzanne Wright. “By sharing what we’ve learned and taking our message to Washington, the United Nations and even the Vatican, we’ve been able to raise awareness and bring hope to millions of families.”

Autism Speaks connects families with local resources and provides Tool Kits for every stage of life to help them navigate their journey with autism. Each year for the next decade, an estimated 50,000 young people with autism will transition into adulthood. To address the needs of this growing population, Autism Speaks is holding town halls across the country to help communities create opportunities for employment and housing.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of volunteers take part in the organization’s signature fundraising events, Walk Now for Autism Speaks. Held in more than 100 cities across North America, the walks have raised awareness and nearly $250 million for research and services.

Autism Speaks has gone global and now has partnerships in more than 60 countries to foster awareness and services in low-resource communities. More than 10,000 landmarks, buildings and homes in 136 countries on all seven continents took part last year in the annual Light It Up Blue awareness campaign on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day.

At the vanguard of precision medicine, Autism Speaks is collaborating with Google on the MSSNG project (pronounced ‘missing') to look for the missing answers to the autism puzzle. Scientists will sequence the genomes of 10,000 people with autism and their families. That data, available to autism researchers worldwide on Google’s Cloud Platform, will accelerate the pace of research and lead to personalized treatments.

On the legislative front, Autism Speaks has successfully advocated for insurance coverage of autism treatments in 38 states and counting. Legislation passed since 2006 will result in more than $3 billion in federal funding by 2019 for autism research, monitoring and professional training. Autism Speaks also helped lead a campaign resulting in passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE). It allows people with disabilities to set up tax-free 529 savings accounts for disability expenses.

“We’ve been successful in advocating for laws that empower families to get the services they deserve,” said Bob Wright, former vice chairman of General Electric and former chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. “We’ll continue to promote bold, innovative ideas and a national strategy for understanding autism and managing this growing health crisis.”

About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive behaviors.

For more about our ten years of progress: What We’ve Learned About Autism

For more about Autism Speaks: http://www.AutismSpeaks.org.

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C.J. Volpe
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