Charity Profile: Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. Recognizing the need for a powerful voice, their friend Bernie Marcus donated $25 million to help financially launch the organization. Today, building on the legacy of three leading autism organizations, Autism Coalition for Research and Education (ACRE), the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), who merged with the organization, Autism Speaks works to increase global awareness of autism, expand understanding of the autism spectrum, and advocate for research and access to care and support.
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. There is not one autism but many subtypes, most caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences. An estimated 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum.
Kelley Fitzsimonds, beverage manager at Bull & Crown Publick House and Taberna del Caballo in Florida knows about autism firsthand. His son has autism and he is keen on making sure others know about the disorder. “People often look at my son like it is a discipline issue or that he is just being ‘bad’ when it’s something he can’t help,” he says. “I think the more people are educated on autism, the less judgmental people will be on us when we’re in public.”
Restaurant co-owner Ann Salazar of Salazar’s in Cincinnati has a nephew with autism. “We know how it affects families in so many ways and makes you feel helpless,” she says. “We hope as more awareness and research becomes available, autistic children and their families will have more resources as well as treatments.”
Both restaurants have donated to Autism Speaks during past Negroni Weeks, and a number of other venues across the country have also chosen to support the organization.