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Autism Speaks Is Changing Its Mission For the First Time in Over 10 Years

Autism Speaks is changing its mission for the first time since it was founded in 2005. The organization is the largest autism advocacy group in the U.S. Its founding objective was to find a cure for autism.

Rather than focusing on a cure for autism, the nonprofit says it will now look towards advancing research into causes and better therapies for autism spectrum disorders, as well as promote acceptance, advocacy and support for individuals and families.

“Autism Speaks was founded on the goal of curing autism as one of its objectives,” Stephen Mark Shore, an Autism Speaks board member, told Disability Scoop. “However, similar to many experiences of parents of children with autism, the organization grew to believe that autism is something to be worked with for promoting fulfilling and productive lives of people on the spectrum — rather than something that has to be done to.”

This year has marked a number of changes for Autism Speaks, most notably the death of co-founder Suzanne Wright, and the exits of its previous president and chief science officer.

As per its updated mission, over the next 10 years, Autism Speaks plans to make significant progress in the following areas:

  • A better understanding of the causes and typology of ASD
  • Children with an autism spectrum disorder being diagnosed before the age of 2
  • Children having access to appropriate intervention, services and resources immediately following diagnosis
  • The availability of better treatments both for underlying pathology as well as co-existing conditions that decrease quality of life for those with autism
  • People with ASD and their families have transition plans that result in more independent adult life that is meaningful to the individual
  • Individuals with ASD will have effective interventions, services and supports throughout their lifetime

As awareness has progressed, more have come to understand that autism spectrum disorder is not an illness, but a neurological difference that may present challenges for an individual growing up in a world designed for the neurotypical brain. An estimated one in 68 children in the U.S. are on the autism spectrum. It’s important to remember these children grow up to be autistic adults, who deserve support and acceptance.