Autism Speak’s Walk
On March 9, I had the opportunity to attend an all-day Autism conference, called the Autism Extravaganza. Temple Grandin spoke for almost ninety minutes and then spoke briefly during the luncheon. The Autism Speaks Texas Walk Director and the Autism Speaks Director of Research for Environmental Sciences also spoke. The day concluded with two PTs providing a very informative and helpful session on sensory integration. Region XIV put on the conference for free and opened it to all community members; the luncheon was the kick off luncheon for Walk Now for Autism Speaks and served as a fundraising effort.
I would like to thank Region XIV for their efforts on this conference; it was well worth the time and I appreciate the admirable goals behind the day, although I will quibble quite seriously with how Autism Speaks spends the money it raises.
Autism Speaks brings in a lot of money, and how they use it matters. The information (and misinformation) they provide matters just as much. I sat with around 800 other people, educators, support service personnel, healthcare professionals, and parents and listened while some of that misinformation was spread to what I have to presume are for the most part individuals who might not be aware of what was accurate and what was not.
One area not addressed by the Autism Speaks presenters was how the funds raised are actually spent. The impression left was one of all the donors’ funds going towards research. In 2008, Autism Speaks took in gross receipts of $69,288,848. They have 258 employees and 350,000 volunteers. In addition to their gross receipts, they had investment income in the amount of $403,930. They paid out $71,095,217.
Out of these funds, Autism Speaks gave out $27,593,390 in grants. However, they shelled out more to pay their employees ($17,756,876) and fundraise ($14,178,307). That’s right. Autism speaks shelled out almost as much money on fundraising as it did to pay 258 people.
In other words, in case you’d missed it, Autism Speaks gives less money to grants for research, community education, and community activities than it does to pay its people and fundraise.
With a CDC-estimate of 730,000 autistic individuals under the age of 21 in the US alone, and many of the parents of younger children desperate to help their children overcome the deficits of autism, Autism Speaks positions itself as a lifeline for these parents and has a responsibility to spend more than the 39% it collects on research and on helping families and individuals now.
Hundreds of individuals concerned about autistic individuals will rally around for the walk for autism, and I do not, as a parent to children on the spectrum, begrudge them their efforts. Their goals are admirable and their desire for fellowship a wonderful thing. Autism Speaks has an obligation to use those funds raised more efficiently and more effectively, to make a real difference now in the lives of people with autism and their families.