Autism Speaks Inc is the largest organization advocating for individuals with autism, their families, and anyone who supports individuals with autism. Although it was established in the United States, it has a worldwide impact. Sponsorship activities, awareness studies, donations… in short, they organize and lead many activities for individuals with autism. Their activities are both for the public and the states. They continue their work with the support of the political power of the United States of America.
Autism Speaks’ mission is to always be by their side in meeting and solving the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Wherever you are on the spectrum of autism, Autism Speaks will always be your number one support. They do all support work through advocacy and donation. Their first priority is to facilitate the lives of individuals with autism and to ensure that they are accepted by society. In addition, they take an active role in autism studies.
Autism Speaks, a major community advocacy organization in the field of autism, made a small but significant change in the focus of their work. According to the organization’s recent mission change, the main purpose of the organization is no longer to find a “cure” for autism. In Autism Speaks’ new mission, there is no longer room for negative overtones such as “fight autism”, “hassle” and “crisis”. Discussions will no longer be centered around the goal of correcting and treating a developmental “retardation” or “disorder”.
Autism Speaks and similar organizations have long defined autism as an epidemic. According to the new perspective, which is getting stronger, it is underlined that this discourse, which shows similarities with the process of the spread of infectious diseases in the society, should now change. This discursive change will positively change the reactions and stances of parents towards autism. Approaching autism as an epidemic that needs a war or a crisis situation that needs to be overcome as soon as possible negatively affects both the child diagnosed with autism and their families, and also unnecessarily exhausts them.
It is claimed that there are three main reasons for the apparent increase in autism diagnoses in the world. Radically expanding diagnostic criteria, screening tests that are being used by more experts, and increased public awareness of autism. Another important reason why autism is evaluated in a negative context is that organizations and experts working in the field of autism do not directly receive information from individuals diagnosed with autism. But this situation has recently started to change. Individuals with autism have now begun to take active advocacy roles in the field of autism.
These changes in the discourses and perspectives that develop around autism and autism will prevent the parents to perceive autism as a disaster. Autism should be perceived as a condition that needs to be understood first, rather than a disease that needs to be treated. When we take the primary goal of helping individuals diagnosed with autism to cope with the difficulties of autism by really listening and understanding them, instead of competing with “normal” individuals we have conceived in our minds, we will make healthier steps for both our children and ourselves. Autism Speaks seems to have taken an important step in this area by shifting the focus from “treatment” to “listening” and “understanding”!
The Mission of Autism Speaks
- Increasing global understanding, awareness, and acceptance of people on the autism spectrum
- Being a catalyst for initiating and sustaining research that improves the lives of individuals with autism
- Increasing early health screenings and timely interventions
- Improving the transition stages from childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood, and adult to old age
- Ensuring access to reliable information, resources, services, and treatments throughout their lives
History of Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by then vice president Bob Wright and his wife Suzanne. The motivation behind establishing such an organization was that their grandchildren had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Wright family, who has a grandchild with autism in their lives, wanted society to be more conscious about autism and to make the lives of individuals with autism easier.
By January 2008, Geraldine Dawson, an expert in pediatric clinical psychology, was appointed as the chief executive of Autism Speaks. Yoko Ono became the first “Global Autism Ambassador” selected by the organization in April 2010. Since its establishment, Autism Speaks has become its current form by merging with 3 different autism organizations.
After Bob Wright resigned from the presidency of the organization in 2015, Brian Kelly was appointed as the head of the organization. Although Bob Wright resigned from the presidency, he continued to serve as co-founder of Autism Speaks. Unlike Bob Wright, his wife Suzanne Wright did not take an active part in the work of the organization after she left the chair and died in 2016.
Activities of Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is a fundraiser for autism in general, along with the organizations it collaborates with. It is an organization that conducts studies on the causes, treatment, and history of autism aims to raise awareness of the society and organizes social aid activities. Although they aimed to treat individuals with autism as a mission in the first establishment, they stopped accepting this as a mission in 2016.
One of the biggest differences Autism Speaks made is that it contributed to the awareness of society thanks to the research it pioneered. They have always supported the collection of the missing money for research. They have always supported autism studies with the larger amounts of money they collected with the support of the state. Regardless of the research topic, they did not hesitate to help. They put great emphasis on the clinical basis of the research. They also put a lot of emphasis on increasing the use of known and obtained information in the practical field.
It is possible to group the studies supported by Autism Speaks under four main headings. These are the etiology of autism, the biological effects, and consequences of autism, the diagnosis of autism, and the methods and treatments to be applied in autism treatment.
Genetic and environmental factors that cause autism are examined in etiology studies. Gene screening is generally performed during these investigations. In addition to gene screening, factors, and environmental factors that may affect the mother during pregnancy are examined.
During biological studies, everything from the cell, which is the smallest building block of the human being, to the whole body is examined. During these examinations, the focus is on brain structure and brain development.
During epidemiology studies, studies are carried out to facilitate the lives of individuals with autism and their families. The importance of early diagnosis is stated. Biomarkers of autism are determined and announced to the public.
Studies on autism treatments usually include treatments and interventions. Studies are conducted on the effects of medication, the possible effects of behavioral therapies, and how psychological interventions can facilitate the lives of individuals with autism. Complementary therapies and alternative medicine treatments are also included in these research topics.
There is a DNA repository that was founded by Cure Autism Now in 1990 and is now used by autism researchers. This DNA store contains genotypic and phenotypic information of individuals with autism and their families. This unique repository is funded by Autism Speaks.
Along with the DNA repository, a research network that collects brain tissue from individuals with autism is also funded by Autism Speaks. Donating brain tissue is a very difficult decision by the families of individuals with autism, and if they are taking this step, these requests should be used for the benefit of individuals with autism in other generations. These donations are very rare and vital components for future studies.
In addition to these networks, Autism Speaks financially supports networks that focus on research on pharmacological treatments and on therapies that will make the lives of children and babies with autism easier.
New genetic studies reveal that autism affects each individual differently than the other. Autism draws a completely different and unique profile in almost every individual. Therefore, it is of great importance to personalize the training processes and other supportive therapies to eliminate the difficulties caused by autism.
In 2014, Autism Speaks cooperated with Google. Using Google’s cloud base, it was aimed to create the world’s largest genome database. For this, the DNA of 10000 families with autism was analyzed and loaded. This genome database will be an excellent first step for future genome analysis.
Within the scope of the project jointly conducted by Autism Speaks and Google, 7000 genomes are sequenced and a more “holistic” perspective on the mechanisms underlying autism is aimed through this genetic code consisting of 3.2 billion letters in the human genome. Within the scope of the project, Google and Autism Speaks platform cooperate, creating the world’s largest genomic database in the field of autism. The study sequences the DNA of more than 10,000 families affected by autism. A platform is being created that makes the data of this study freely available to researchers around the world.
Autism Speaks believes that in order to empower society, every one of all ages, levels, and cultures, with or without autism, should have an understanding. It is believed that this will strengthen society. Creating a gentler, more advantageous, and more inclusive environment for individuals with autism is their primary goal. Raising public awareness of autism is one of Autism Speaks’ primary goals. Their work has always been in this direction, not only in the American continent but throughout the world.
Over the years, it has worked with many institutions and organizations, created campaigns, carried out awareness studies, collected donations, and supported individuals with autism and their families.
A more inclusive environment was created for individuals with autism with the autism-centered tales and stories they created. Various videos have been edited and broadcast for a clear understanding of all profiles in the spectrum. Numerous studies have been conducted to make sure the autism-related news is reliable.
Thanks to thousands of photos, videos, comments, and likes on social media, millions of people were reached and awareness was raised about autism. Collaborating with congressional leaders and political leaders, they were given talks to raise awareness of autism.
By creating topics on relevant platforms, it was ensured that the stories of individuals with autism were shared and the public awareness of the difficulties they experienced was increased. Autism Speaks’ social media posts have been viewed by millions of people around the world.
Cooperation with other organizations was established. Politicians, famous names, and artists were invited to support autism awareness. Advertising campaigns were organized to increase volunteer participation.
Autism Speaks organizes autism walking programs every year. In the walking organized in 2006, the participation of 20,000 participants was ensured and 2 million dollars were collected for individuals with autism and their families.
Politically in power, some politicians supported Autism Speaks in campaigns launched to emphasize the importance of early detection by bringing autism awareness to the state level. In addition to the assistance of politicians, a series was published, emphasizing the importance of autism treatment and research, with a cast made up of artists of tabloid reputation. Autism Speaks has sponsored and financially supported many films on autism.
Besides all these, Autism Speaks launched the “Light It Up Blue” campaign so that it can continue on the same day, in the same way, and with the same logic. With the money collected on this day every year, it is aimed to help individuals with autism and their families.
Light It Up Blue is an event organized on April 2 every year and dedicated to raising autism awareness. It is celebrated on the same day, with the same purpose, and in the same way, not only in the United States but throughout the world. In this way, it is also aimed to create international awareness about autism spectrum disorder.
Iconic buildings around the world are decorated with glowing blue lights from the evening of April 1st to the evening of April 2nd. When we come to the question of the color blue, blue is the color of autism awareness. You will be able to see blue lights in 9 countries and more than 100 buildings around the world.
Cooperative Organizations with Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks aims to work more effectively and more actively by combining with more than one organization for many different reasons. These reasons may be financing genetic studies, working with scientists who will carry out research, supporting different methods, and supporting the participation of individuals with autism in life.
National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR)
It is the first organization that Autism Speaks merged and started working with. The National Alliance for Autism Research was the first non-profit organization to support studies to investigate the causes of autism. A small council of scientists was influential in its establishment.
National Alliance for Autism Research has made many contributions to many projects. It helped raise funds for research, applied for scholarships, collaborated with collaborative programs, and raised more than $ 20 million in donations. It has a very important and effective place in the brain tissue donation program.
Cure Autism Now (CAN)
Cure Autism Now was founded in 1995 by Jonathan Shestack and Portia Iversen, parents of a child with autism, and in 2007 they started working with Autism Speaks. It is a community of parents, doctors, and scientists. They took great strides and initiated the establishment of the autism gene bank. They helped raise more than $ 39 million for Autism Speaks to support and assist in their research. They also funded many of the education and outreach that Autism Speaks ran and wanted to run.
Autism Coalition for Research and Education
As its name suggests, Autism Coalition for Research and Education is an organization that provides tremendous support in improving, increasing, and conducting autism studies. They make an extra effort for the education of individuals with autism and claim that they do not have any difference in getting an education from children who complete their development normally, and they conduct studies in this direction. In 2005, they started working with Autism Speaks and combined their goals.
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Autism Speaks Products
As an organization, Autism Speaks sells some products to raise awareness about autism, to show support and love for people on the autism spectrum, and to provide something to donate to. If you want to help them in case of what we have talked about above, it is a great way to purchase products from Autism Speaks Shop. They do not have many options but the aim is not to purchase something fashionable. It is charity.
Autism Awareness Silicone Wristband-10PK
It is a great way to show your support and love for autism. You can purchase this one from Autism Speaks’ offices or order from Amazon easily. It is a colorful way to start conversations about autism spectrum disorder. https://www.amazon.com/Autism-Awareness-Silicone-Wristband-10PK/dp/B086WPCFSB?ref_=ast_sto_dp
Autism Speaks Canvas Tote
It is an officially licensed tote bag from Autism Speaks. When you buy this bag, you will donate and show your support at the same time. Comparing to the emotional support you will give, the price is nothing. https://www.amazon.com/Autism-Speaks-Canvas-Tote/dp/B0861HJ3NX?ref_=ast_sto_dp
TMP Company Autism Speaks String Bracelet
It is a perfectly designed autism bracelet. It is blue which is the color of autism awareness. There is a puzzle piece bangle on it which is the autism logo. In addition to these benefits, it is adjustable to fit your wrist perfectly. Any man, woman, and children can wear with high confidence to show thier love and support towards autism. https://www.amazon.com/TMP-Company-Autism-Speaks-Bracelet/dp/B08634XSYH?ref_=ast_sto_dp
Autism Speaks Autism Awareness Choose to Include T-Shirt
It is a very different autism awareness t-shirt you can find on the market. It is specifically designed by Autism Speaks. It emphasizes the importance of why people on the autism spectrum should be included in society. It is a great way to show your support and love for the autism community. https://www.amazon.com/Autism-Awareness-Choose-Include-T-Shirt/dp/B086H2FQWY?ref_=ast_sto_dp&th=1
Autism Speaks Shine a Light on Autism Graphic T-Shirt
It is a perfect and colorful way to raise awareness about autism. Apart from awareness, when you purchase one, you will donate to the autism community. You will help them to enhance their life quality and help them to include society more. https://www.amazon.com/Shine-Light-Autism-Graphic-T-Shirt/dp/B07PS6HZKL?ref_=ast_sto_dp
Autism Speaks Love Needs No Words Ladies Scoop Neck T-Shirt
As the sentence on the T-shirt implies, there is no need for Words in order to love someone on the autism spectrum. It includes everything that autism society stands for. It gives everything important in the autism community. The only thing they want is love and it doesnt need words to show it. https://www.amazon.com/Needs-Words-Ladies-Scoop-T-Shirt/dp/B086FHLQW9?ref_=ast_sto_dp
Autism Speaks Autism Awareness Heart Cut Puzzle Hoodie
It is a great way to support the autism community. It is designed to keep you warm and comfortable physically while giving you emotional pleasure. It is a perfect gift option as well. There are many sizes available. There are many color options available to choose from according to your preference and taste. https://www.amazon.com/AUTISM-AWARENESS-HEART-PUZZLE-Hoodie/dp/B06XNMG84L/ref=lp_8173727011_1_3?s=specialty-aps&th=1
Lokai Autism Split Cause Collection Bracelet
Lokai is designed and produced this bracelet with Autism Speaks. It is very simple but attractive. It shows all the aim in one place. You will get attention from your environment and it will give you an opportunity to talk about autism. https://www.amazon.com/Lokai-Cause-Collection-Bracelet-Autism/dp/B07B3X97FF/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=autism+speaks&qid=1608835831&sr=8-4