Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA), an initiative led by a consortium of leading autism advocacy organizations, today announced the launch of a new web site, www.AFAA-us.org, that will provide updates on AFAA’s ongoing efforts to improve housing, employment, recreational and social opportunities for adults with autism across the country. The site will be hosted by Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization.
“The face of autism is rapidly changing with a generation of children who will be entering adulthood over the next 5-10 years,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president for programs and services. “As a society, we are ill-prepared to deal with what will be a boom in demand for housing, employment and other critical services needed to appropriately serve adults living with autism. This initiative is an effort to create, with the input of a wide range of stakeholders, a useful and actionable public policy agenda.”
The first of three phases of the AFAA initiative, an Expert Panel/Think Tank, began this past January when a group of nationally-recognized experts in a variety of fields – program operators, university professors, public policy authorities, specialists from both the public and private sectors, and individuals with autism – was convened to identify existing programs, current challenges and possible solutions for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the areas of employment, residential options, recreation and community integration. Information about the results of this meeting will be posted on the AFAA website in late May.
Phase two will be a virtual National Town Hall meeting to be held on November 13, 2009. More than 1,000 participants, including caregivers, advocates, elected officials, family members, and adults with autism, are expected to take part and make recommendations for creating a policy agenda to better address the unique needs of adults with autism. The National Town Hall will be hosted by The Autism Program Service Network (“TAP”) in Chicago, with participants joining the national discussion via webcasts from at least 14 satellite sites.
The AFAA initiative will culminate with an Autism Congress to be held in Washington, D.C. in 2010. The goal of the Autism Congress is to build a consensus statement outlining the existing challenges facing adults with autism and providing cost effective, evidence-based solutions. This statement will serve as a national agenda from which an action plan will be devised. The Autism Congress will also set forth recommendations for new public policy and changes to existing policy; empower national and regional networks to advance public policy and support of life-long living and learning with autism; and generate awareness and support through earned media. The Autism Congress will be comprised of approximately 60 participants, including individuals with autism, autism advocates, policy experts, elected public officials, public policy experts and university professors/researchers.
“It is critical that we all come together to ensure a brighter future for teens and adults with autism,” said Dr. Cyndy Hayes, founder of Global Communities of Support. “We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us that must be met with a sense of urgency and a spirit of collaboration.”
“Tackling these issues isn’t just the right thing to do for these individuals, it is also the prudent thing to do for our society,” said Ilene Lainer, executive director of the New York Center for Autism.
“With the proper support and services, adults with autism can be active and engaged members of their communities. Our collective responsibility is to give them the opportunities to make meaningful contributions.”
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
About Advancing Future for Adults with Autism
Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA) is a national consortium seeking to create meaningful futures for adults with autism that include homes, jobs, recreation, friends and supportive communities. Our efforts are focused to develop and drive the agenda for life-long living and learning with autism. The consortium is currently comprised of members from Autism Speaks, Alpine Learning Group, The Autism Program Service Network, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, Easter Seals, Global Communities of Support, Hallmark Community Solutions, New York Center for Autism, Organization for Autism Research, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, and University of Miami/Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities.