Regarding the March 21 letter to the editor "Speak Locally," writer Jennifer Forsyth is inaccurate when she writes that the organization Autism Speaks "only uses the funds they raise for national research and awareness."
Yes, Autism Speaks funds research, which is desperately needed as we hear from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that one in 50 school children have autism spectrum disorders and we don't know why. I have two children with autism and research is what first drew me and many others to the organization. But in addition to the research and awareness campaigns that are so necessary to changing policy and law, Autism Speaks provides community support and advocacy.
As a national organization that is run mainly by volunteer efforts, Autism Speaks has led the way in getting autism insurance laws on the books in 30-plus states; we are also leading the charge in making autism a national priority for the president and Congress. On the local level, Autism Speaks puts money back into communities through grants and programs that provide funds directly to families experiencing disaster or crisis.
True, Autism Speaks is not a service provider! To criticize the organization for not providing services really makes no sense. That would be like criticizing local groups for not funding scientific research. It is not part of our mission to provide services, but we do support community providers in their work. In addition to the grant opportunities, the Pittsburgh chapter hosts quarterly service provider meetings so that all can share what they are doing, discuss common problems and work together to bring the best opportunities for success to all who have autism.