Autism Speaks today released its Strategic Plan for Science 2018-2020, with emphasis on the organization's mission to enhance lives today and accelerate a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.
"We want to see the decade ahead delivering personalized therapies and services that meet the needs of people across the autism spectrum and the life span, says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Thomas Frazier. "This includes increasing access to early childhood screening and intervention, to services that decrease the impact of co-occurring medical and mental health issues, and to programs that improve the transition into adulthood."
"This plan renews our commitment to be an engine that drives cutting-edge science and paves the way for personalized autism care," adds Autism Speaks President and Chief Executive Officer Angela Geiger. "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 strategic plan's priorities were shaped by guidance from leading autism researchers, healthcare providers, people on the autism spectrum and their families. Earlier this year, Autism Speaks collected direct input from the autism community through a 20-question, online Science Planning Survey, open to the public and completed by more than 6,000 people.
The plan's priority objectives include:
- Support research that deepens understanding of autism's causes, including basic research on the biological processes that lead to many different types of autism and their associated physical and mental health conditions.
- Support studies that translate these basic discoveries into promising personalized treatments and services ready to be evaluated in pilot studies.
- Foster opportunities for clinical testing of promising treatments, individual services and public health programs, with an emphasis on serving underserved communities at home and abroad.
- Improve the measurement of autism and its associated features to enhance screening, diagnosis, subgroup identification and the tracking of change during clinical trials and across the life span.
- Promote consensus-building in autism research and healthcare by facilitating engagement among professionals and with the autism community, with the goal of speeding and expanding the delivery of effective, evidence-based care and services.
- Continually review research areas and Autism Speaks science activities to identify those ripe for culmination or transition to other funding sources and to ensure that new research funding complements rather than duplicates that by other funding organizations. In this way, Autism Speaks can best fulfill its signature role of supporting highly innovative research in its early stages, identifying the most promising discoveries and therapies for expanded support by larger funders such as the National Institutes of Health.
- Broadly and effectively communicate our science strategic plan and ongoing progress against its goals, with an emphasis on engaging with the autism community.
"The plan released today is a living document," Dr. Frazier emphasizes. "We will continue to review progress and incorporate feedback in the coming years."
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, and most forms are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences. An estimated 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum.
ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. We empower people with autism and their families with resources, online tools and information covering the life span. To find resources, join a fundraising walk or make a donation, go to http://www.