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The Month in Review: Autism Speaks January 2011 Impact

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

January got everyone off and running quickly as we ramped up several new programs and initiatives for 2012 and literally hit the ground running.

In late January, the New York Times broke a story about the proposed DSM-5 change that triggered an avalanche of discussion, concern and more. To get the latest, catch up on Autism Speaks DSM-5 policy statement and FAQ.

Enjoy this month’s impact highlights!

Science

DSM-5

Autism Speaks issues DSM-5 Policy Statement

 

  • Top Ten January proved to be another lively month, beginning with continued media coverage of our Top Ten Autism Research Achievements of 2011 and the publication of Geri’s annual letter from the CSO. The month culminated with considerable media coverage and community concern about proposed revisions to the medical definition of autism spectrum disorder in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Understandably, our families are concerned about the potential implications for diagnosis and access to services, and our science leadership has been providing perspective through national media as well as our own blog and a heavily attended webchat. We will be working hard to ensure that the DSM changes do not exclude access to needed services.
  • Adults with Autism  We hosted “Adults with Autism: Sharing Ideas, Filling the Gaps,” a research summit focused on adults development, services, and treatments.  Held in North Carolina, we brought together major donors, scientists, clinicians, and staff to discuss the research Autism Speaks is funding that is investigating what factors lead to the best outcomes in autism, lifetime trajectories, and new services and treatments.  Read all about this incredible and unique event on our science blog.
  • Ireland On Jan 12-13 We held an international conference “Autism Spectrum Disorders: From Clinical Practice to Educational Provisions” at the Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research at the National University of Ireland, Galway. More than 600 delegates from around the world attended. You can read more on the science blog.

Want to dig into Autism Speaks science even further? Visit the science section of our website, and read the latest blog posts from the science department.

Family Services

House in Hand Autism Speaks

Housing and Residential Support Tool Kit

 

  • Community Grants Our Family Services Community Grants recipients for 2011 were announced on January 24th. Over $1 million in awards were issued to 53 community services organizations in the United States and Canada. The focus of the Family Services Community Grants is to promote autism services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism while expanding the field of service providers. The next round of Family Services Community Grants will be announced in February.
  • Video Glossary On January 5th, we launched an updated version of the Autism Video Glossary – a section on autism treatments. Like the first phase, this was a collaborative effort between Autism Speaks, First Signs and Florida State University. The new treatment section expands the Video Glossary’s library with the inclusion of more than 100 video clips from actual therapy sessions illustrating 22 treatments that may be used to help children with autism build skills, connect with peers and family members, and reduce challenging behaviors. It offers families a window into the various treatment options, provides a description of each method, and lists the top five research studies supporting the treatment and where to find more information. Professionals will also find the treatment section useful when working with a family to determine the best course of treatment for a child with autism.
  • Housing We also launched our Housing and Residential Support Tool Kit in January. The tool kit includes a written guide, a catalogue of residential options and supports, featured house of the month, housing resources and housing in the news.   Our hope is that this tool kit will provide information to individuals with autism and their families as they thinking about housing and residential support options.

Stay up to date with the latest from Family Services in a variety of ways! Subscribe to our monthly “community connections” newsletter, Bookmark the Family Services page on our website or read Family Services related blog posts.

Advocacy

Military families sound off Autism Speaks

Military families sound off for autism

  • Military Families Sound Off Military families finally got their say before Congress about the shortcomings in their autism insurance benefits, including the loss of all autism benefits when they retire. Autism Speaks helped organize the event and rally military families to the Capitol Hill briefing which resulted in an overflow room. Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, who is sponsoring the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act, called the plight of America’s military families raising kids with autism “immoral.”
  • And They’re Off!  Autism insurance reform campaigns in the states have launched with new bills introduced in Utah and Nebraska, a bill expanding existing benefits launched in Vermont and a bill protecting coverage for Applied Behavior Analysis already voted out of the Virginia Legislature and on the desk of Governor Robert McDonnell. Autism Speaks has spearheaded autism insurance reform campaigns nationally that have resulted in 29 states representing 70 percent of the U.S. population now protected by such laws.
  • ‘Show Me’ State Shows the Facts on Autism Insurance The Missouri Department of Insurance has released an analysis of its year-old autism insurance reform law showing that the impact on premiums was 0.1 percent, a fraction of the 3 percent impact used by insurance industry lobbyists in their efforts to defeat such laws. The Missouri analysis was consistent with findings Autism Speaks has gathered from five other states showing that the implementation of autism insurance coverage has minimal impact on premiums.

Want to get more involved with Autism Speaks advocacy efforts? Sign up to become an advocate on www.autismvotes.org or text “AVotes” to 30644 to be added to our mobile alert list.

Awareness

Colgate University’s Women’s Hockey

Colgate University’s Women’s Hockey supports autism research

  • Gooooooaaaaal! In collaboration with Autism Speaks U, Colgate University’s Women’s Hockey team is hosting their 2nd annual Autism Awareness Project on February 3, 1011. This project is in support of their team manager, Kati Williams, who is a local teenager on the autism spectrum. Through their various fundraising and awareness efforts they hope to have over 1,200 fans attend the game to help shine a bright light on autism.
  • T-shirt Madness Autism Speaks was introduced with a unique and innovative fundraising opportunity with the company Sevenly. Sevenly designed a custom t-shirt for Autism Speaks and used social media to spread awareness and raise funds! Learn more here and be sad that you missed your chance to get a shirt!

Want to stay up to date on our awareness efforts? Visit the blog for the latest info… that page is also “RSS” enabled so you can add it to your newsreader!

The Month in Review: Autism Speaks October 2011 Impact

November 3, 2011 5 comments

Last month we tried an experiment… we attempted to recap the most important, relevant things going on around Autism Speaks to give you some insight into the breadth and depth of our organization; and to solicit your feedback. Thank you for your incredible responses and questions!

One of the more common questions we get (similar to the one that Kristine on Facebook posted) is, “What can Autism Speaks do to help my family today?” It’s a great question!  We understand that families are struggling and are looking for help and information. Using an “evidence-based science” approach, we seek to deliver useful information, tools, and resources for families that they can immediately use, such as the 100 day and transition kits. Programs such as Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism provide resources across the lifespan. Not only do we provide a wide collection of tools, we also staff the Autism Response Team which is available to answer your questions via email, phone and online chat! They can be reached via email at familyservices@autismspeaks.org or 1-888-AUTISM2. Kristine, that’s how we help families today, while we continue to increase awareness about autism, advocate for more funding for research and services, and fund innovative research projects that are developing improved treatments and services for people with autism.

If you know of other things that might be helpful to another family, please SHARE them by leaving a comment! We want to know what you think is important.

Science

Illustration by Gracia Lam

Illustration by Gracia Lam

  • We’ve got an MD on staff!  This month, we hired Joe Horrigan, MD to head up Autism Speaks’ medical research.  His charge is to spearhead the development of new medicines and other treatments that can help people with autism communicate and learn better and address some of the medical conditions associated with autism, such as GI and sleep problems.  Welcome, Dr. Horrigan!  Look for him on our Science blog.
  • Leading the Way Autism Speaks is leading the way in developing an enhanced Autism Tissue Bank that will accelerate the discovery of the causes and new treatments for autism.   Autism Speaks Autism Tissue Program (ATP) featured prominently in a feature story in the prestigious science journal, Nature, on the tissue bank shortage and how a small handful of organizations such as Autism Speaks are working to fill the void and speed research that can help individuals and families struggling with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
  • World’s Largest Genome Library will be created by Autism Speaks and the Beijing Genome Institute.  Autism Speaks and  announced an agreement to create the world’s largest library of sequenced genomes from persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Multiple stories have appeared in the U.S. and China. The journal Nature interviewed Andy Shih on the agreement, as did Genome Web Clinical Sequencing.
  • Got Hours? Geri Dawson held her first “Office Hours with the Chief Science Officer” which featured guest host and renowned geneticist Steve Scherer, PhD, who addressed the question: What do the new findings in genetics mean for my family?  Dr. Dawson will be holding monthly office hours and the next one will be on the topic of new approaches to early intervention, scheduled for the first week of December Read the transcript.

Want to dig into Autism Speaks science even further? Visit the science section of our website, and read the latest blog posts from the science department.

Family Services

  • Employment October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. We highlighted the Jay Nolan Community Services Employment Tool Kit that was funded by one of our Family Services Community Grants. Other employment-related activities included question of the week on Facebook and live chats with:
  • New Toolkit Alert New Tool Kit Alert – in an effort to provide information and encouragement to all people with individuals with autism in their lives, Autism Speaks has several new Family Support Tool Kits. The purpose of each kit is to help teach family members and friends more about autism and provide resources and supports to each group. New kits include:
    • Parents
    • Siblings
    • Grandparents
    • Friends

Stay up to date with the latest from Family Services in a variety of ways! Subscribe to our monthly “community connections” newsletter, Bookmark the Family Services page on our website or read Family Services related blog posts.

Advocacy

Signing in NY

Signing in NY

  • New York Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright stood alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he signed legislation making New York the 29th state to enact an autism insurance reform law.  The New York law is one of the strongest in the nation, setting no caps on age or visits for behavioral treatments. Governor Cuomo credited Autism Speaks for its leadership role in winning enactment of the legislation.
  • California We (all of us) did it! A major campaign was launched to ask Governor Brown to sign SB.946, the autism insurance reform bill, into law. Because of California’s significance as the most populous state, we asked advocates in the other 49 states to participate by recruiting their friends and family in California to participate. Thousands of emails were sent into Governor Brown and over 1,000 people left comments on his Facebook page as well. Every possible method to get through to him was deployed, including a successful political cartoon campaign. The cartoon was printed as 750 posters and distributed at the Oct. 9 Sacramento Walk, the day the bill was signed by Governor Brown making California the 28th state to enact reform.
  • Michigan Our attention has now turned to Michigan where we are urging the state’s legislative leadership to move a pair of autism insurance reform bills before the year’s end. We need your help! If you are in Michigan, or know someone who is please text “AVotes” to 30644 and we’ll alert you when we need your help!
  • Autism Law Summit The 6th Annual Autism Law Summit attracted 100 activists from 33 states to Salt Lake City. The event highlights efforts to obtain insurance benefits for necessary autism treatments through legislation, litigation, and encouraging employers with self-funded plans to include the benefit for their employees. During the summit, we celebrated Arkansas, California, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia for enacting reform bills during 2011.

Want to get more involved with Autism Speaks advocacy efforts? Sign up to become an advocate on www.autismvotes.org or text “AVotes” to 30644 to be added to our mobile alert list.

Awareness

60 Minutes Apps for Autism

60 Minutes Apps for Autism: image from CBS

  • Apps for Autism The producers of 60 Minutes consulted extensively with Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson and VP of Scientific Affairs Andy Shih in preparing a special segment on autism applications for communication, which aired Sunday, October 23rd. The full show can be found on the CBS News website.
  • Parents Magazine The October 2011 issue of Parent Magazine featured an interview with Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson in an article entitled “Understanding Autism.” The piece encouraged parents to pursue an early diagnosis of autism in their children and highlighted the beneficial outcomes that early intervention and treatment can bring to a child diagnosed with autism.  To read an excerpt from the article, click here: http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/health/autism/autism-diagnosis/
  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition On Friday, October 28, ABC “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” aired an episode featuring the McPhails, an Oregon family with two sons affected by autism. In addition to tackling home improvements, the EMHE team worked with Autism Speaks to rally the local community to raise autism awareness in honor of the family. To watch the episode click here: http://abc.go.com/watch/extreme-makeover-home-edition/SH559052/VD55150625/mcphail-family-part-2

Want to stay up to date on our awareness efforts? Visit the blog for the latest info… that page is also “RSS” enabled so you can add it to your newsreader!

Technology, Apps, and Autism

October 24, 2011 6 comments

Welcome to this installment of ‘Topic of the Week.’ These topics stem from submissions from our community. If there is anything in particular that you would like to see featured, please contact us!

Leslie Stahl reported how people with autism are speaking and making breakthroughs on this 60 Minutes feature, Apps for Autism.

Do you, or someone you know on the spectrum, used assistive technology to help communicate? Are there any applications you favor? What are some pros and cons of using assistive technology for those on the spectrum?

Can you recommend any apps or devices?


More than 100 of the nation’s top chefs serve up an evening to remember for Autism Speaks

October 4, 2011 2 comments

Last night was quite a night for Autism Speaks. More than 100 of the nation’s finest chefs put on a culinary extravaganza at the Autism Speaks to Wall Street: 5th Annual Celebrity Chef Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City and was sponsored by Susan and Steven Wise of KRG Children’s Charitable Foundation, Charmz 4 Charity and Puzzlebuilder among other top sponsors. The annual fundraising event – which can easily be described as a foodie paradise – brought together the biggest names in the restaurant world for an amazing evening that raised $1.6 million for Autism Speaks’ research and advocacy initiatives.

The event was emceed by NBC’s “Minute to Win It” host and Food Network personality Guy Fieri, and co-hosted by CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl and Lee Brian Schrager of Southern Wine and Spirits of America. It featured a cocktail reception, auction and the unique experience of four-course tableside cooking by nationally acclaimed chefs such as Bravo’s “Top Chef” lead judge Tom Colicchio (Colicchio & Sons); Franklin Becker (Abe & Arthur’s, Catch and Lexington Brass); Todd English (ÇaVa Brasserie); Masaharu Morimoto (MORIMOTO); Wylie Dufresne (WD-50); Terrance Brennan (Artisanal, Picholine); Food Network’s “Chopped All-Stars” champion Nate Appleman (Chipotle) and “Iron Chef”  winner Katsuya Fukushima (Daikaya Restaurant). Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright served as the evening’s honorary co-chairs and Jennifer and Franklin Becker, Susan and Philip Harris, Alison and Duncan Niederauer, and Suzanne and Shawn Rubin served as the event co-chairs.

Highlights from the event include Guy calling Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr and KRG Chairman Steven Wise onstage for a “Minute to Win It” contest of stacking apples. Wise wowed the crowd by balancing five apples in about three seconds for the victory! Guests were also treated to a special performance by Rex Lewis-Clack, a young pianist and vocalist who is faced with the challenges of blindness and autism, and opera singer Sam McElroy, who has been coaching Rex on his singing. Introduced by his friend Lesley Stahl, Rex captivated everyone in attendance and received numerous standing ovations. It was a truly masterful performance that equaled the efforts of the illustrious chefs who graciously donated their time and talents to Autism Speaks on a wonderful evening.

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