Autism is a complex brain disorder that often inhibits a person's ability to communicate, respond to surroundings or form relationships with others. First identified more than 50 years ago, autism is typically diagnosed by the age of two or three. It is considered a spectrum disorder because symptoms and severity vary from individual to individual.
The incidence worldwide is 1 in 167 children with a 4:1 bias to boys.
Autism Speaks (www.autismspeaks.org.uk) is part of a global approach to determine the causes of autism by 2014 and to halve the total cost of this perplexing disorder by 2020. Autism Speaks annually raises millions of dollars and is the world's largest non-governmental funder of research into causes. Its Mission includes providing grants for researchers for new, innovation pilot studies, mentoring fellowship to recruit new researchers to focus on autism and funding for larger, collaborative programmes. These cover a wide range of specific disciplines such as immunology, epidemiology, behavioural sciences, molecular and cellular biology, genetics and neuroscience.
The international campaign in the next three years is for the following critical areas of medical research:
- The Autism Genome Project is the largest research collaboration ever assembled to look for the susceptibility genes relevant to autism.
- The Baby Sibling Autism Research Project has its focus on the infant siblings of children diagnosed with autism. It seeks behavioural and biological markers and enables doctors to diagnose earlier and implement treatment in the first months of life. It combines with the...
- Language and Communication Initiative aims to understand the communication deficits in children with autism by child language development experts collaborating with autism researchers.
- Autism Tissue Programme Collaboration between neuroscientists and basic and clinical researchers requires human brain tissue - the world's most precious resource.
Autism Speaks is incorporated in the US and has other affiliates in Eire and Canada, as well as the UK.
Autism Speaks' Scientific Advisory Board has multi-disciplined experts from worldwide centres.