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The Autism Society of America (ASA) was founded in 1965 by Bernard Rimland, PhD, and is the oldest and largest grassroots organization in the autism community, with over 50,000 members and supporters connected through a network of nearly 200 chapters in the United States. ASA is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism, their families and the professionals with whom they interact, advocating for programs and services for the autism community, and is a leading source of information, research, and reference on autism. Since 1970, ASA has held national conferences on autistic spectrum disorders where families and professionals share what they know and have learned through research and experience.
Fast growing constituency
Once considered rare, autism now afflicts 1 in 166 American children. The Autism Society of America estimates that the number of autistic children in the US is growing by 10 percent to 17 percent every year.
The Autism Society of America has been representing the autism community in the US capital for over 30 years. The efforts of ASA have resulted in the successful launch of a number of pieces of legislation aimed at protecting the rights of individuals with autism, legislation mandating education and other services for individuals with autism, bills to raise awareness about autism, and bills appropriating funds for research into the causes of and treatments for autism. The ASA's work in Washington, D.C. has helped put autism on Congress' health care agenda resulting in millions of dollars devoted to autism research and services.
ASA monitors the activities of Congress and the federal government. ASA educates these groups about the unique needs of those with autism and pushes for increased attention and programs.
ASA publishes The Advocate, which offers information on research, legislation, and tips on living with autism for its members.
ASA promotes a parent choice philosophy, rooted in the belief no single program or treatment will benefit all individuals with autism. According to the ASA's philosophy, decisions regarding what is 'best' or 'most effective' for a person with autism should be determined by those directly involved: the individual with autism, to the extent possible, and the parents or family members.
Bernard Rimland, founder
Rimland's book, Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior, was written in 1964 after his son, Mark, was diagnosed with autism.
ASA is not an organization devoid of controversy. The greatest source of opposition to it is from the autistic community, adult autistics who view it as an organization more interested in the rights of the parents of autistics than in those of autistics themselves. Some in this community see it as more dangerous, attacking the rights of autistics in order to generate money for professionals and make the parents' lives easier.
- Autism.org - Center for the Study of Autism
- Autism-Society.org - 'ASA: The Voice of Autism' (Autism Society of America homepage)
- AutismWebsite.com - Autism Research Institute
- AutismWebsite.com - 'Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!): A Project of the Autism Research Institute'
- KansasCity.com - 'Startling rise in autism stirs questions about the cause', Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star (October 9, 2005)
- PaqrentsInc.org - 'Autism Society of America: Martin Scholarship'
Pervasive developmental disorders / Autism spectrum
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