Autism Speaks Unveils New Scientific Agenda
A year after dropping references to a cure from its mission statement, the nation’s largest autism advocacy group is charting a new course with a bold rewrite of its scientific priorities.
Autism Speaks released an updated three-year strategic plan for science this week that includes a two-pronged approach.
The organization is looking to further biological research aimed at developing personalized therapies. At the same time, the plan recognizes that people with autism need immediate solutions to address co-occurring conditions like epilepsy, sleep issues, gastrointestinal troubles and mental health concerns, as well as evidence-based programs to support the transition to adulthood and aging in general.
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“This plan renews our commitment to be an engine that drives cutting-edge science and paves the way for personalized care,” said Angela Geiger, president and chief executive officer at Autism Speaks. “These advances in research will help transform the landscape for people affected by autism, accelerating progress toward new and improved options that will enhance the quality of life now and in the future.”
The release of the revamped agenda is the culmination of over four months of work to better align the nonprofit’s science plan with the new mission statement the organization adopted last year. Both of the updates do away with words like “struggle,” “hardship” and “crisis” as well as any reference to curing autism.
How Autism Speaks chooses to allocate its science budget is meaningful. The group distributed $12.6 million in grants in 2014, trailing only the U.S. government and the Simons Foundation in spending on autism research, according to a federal report.
Notably, at 12 pages long, the new plan is much more concise than the 74-page document it replaces.
Going forward, the nonprofit said that its science agenda will continue to evolve.
“The plan released today is a living document,” said Thomas Frazier, Autism Speaks’ chief science officer. “We will continue to review progress and incorporate feedback in the coming years.”