The longtime chair at the nation’s largest autism advocacy group is stepping aside.

Bob Wright is leaving his post as chairman of Autism Speaks after 10 years leading the organization he founded with his wife, Suzanne, after their grandson was diagnosed with the developmental disorder. Both Wrights will remain on the nonprofit’s board as co-founders.

Effective immediately, Brian Kelly, 53, has been elected to replace Wright. Kelly is an original member of Autism Speaks’ board whose 18-year-old son, Patrick, is on the spectrum.

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Officials with Autism Speaks said that Wright, 72, felt that with the organization strong, the timing was right to ensure a smooth transition.

“Ten years ago, we started Autism Speaks because we were shocked at the lack of research, awareness and access to care for the fastest growing developmental condition in the world,” Wright said in a statement. “We have made progress, but there is still work to be done. Brian Kelly has been a big voice at the Autism Speaks table and, as the new chairman, he is prepared to carry the torch forward on behalf of our families.”

Kelly, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., is co-founder of Eastern Real Estate LLC, a commercial real estate investment, development and asset management firm. He and his wife, Tricia, have donated millions to an autism research and training center at the University of California, Santa Barbara and they established a postsecondary scholarship fund through Autism Speaks.

“We hear from families every day that they need supports and services more than ever,” Kelly said. “Autism Speaks will continue to drive a leadership agenda around the issues that matter most to parents. We will partner with community organizations, businesses, educators and researchers across the country to foster innovation that will improve the lives and futures of people across the autism spectrum.”

The Autism Speaks board voted Friday to appoint Kelly to a five-year term. Like his predecessor, Kelly will receive no compensation for the commitment.

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