Autism Speaks (http://www.autismspeaks.org/) is the leading advocacy organization in the United States for children on the autism spectrum and their loved ones. With the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that the prevalence of autism is now 1 in 68 children, the mission of Autism Speaks is more important than ever. Not only do they provide information on the disorder, they serve as a source of funding for researchers. They also provide advocacy at the local and national level. I have had the opportunity to speak with one of their national advocacy leaders, Lori SheelyUnumb, who is committed to passing legislation in each state that will extend insurance benefits to children on the autism spectrum. I met her during her successful campaign to pass the Window of Opportunity Act in 2008. That law provides up to $36,000 in reimbursement for in-home and in-school applied behavioral analysis.
Autism Speaks also is responsible for local events for children. For example, in June Autism Speaks partnered with the Tampa Bay Rays to provide special sensory rooms at Tropicana Field, so that children with sensory integration disorder could attend a professional baseball game. They sponsor sporting events, such as the FedEx 400 as a way of raising revenue for their research. They maintain a network of professionals who are specialists in the evaluation and treatment of children on the autism spectrum.
One of the most important resources provided by Autism Speaks is their Family Services. They have developed a comprehensive guide to managing “wandering” which can end in tragedy. They have many on-line resources and can make referrals to local professionals.
It is my belief that psychologists should be the leaders in the evaluation and treatment of autism. While applied behavioral analysis is the treatment of choice for autism, it is also necessary to determine if a child has other conditions such as anxiety or a learning disability. Psychologists are the most qualified professionals to conduct such an evaluation. We can also coordinate care with other professionals. If you have questions about autism, feel free to call for a consultation with Dr. Nasrin Erfanian, a psychologist and board certified behavior analyst who joined our practice in 2013.