[Note: Shared for #AutisticHistory archive purposes. This is NOT An Autistic Ally.]
Autism Speaks Awards First Philip and Faith Geier Autism Research Grant in Environmental Sciences
Epidemiologist M. Daniele Fallin, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to Receive $450,000 Over Three Years for Her Outstanding Project on Gene-Environment Interactions
NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 25, 2012) – Autism Speaks is pleased to announce its first Philip and Faith Geier Autism Research Grants in Environmental Sciences, named in honor of Phil Geier and his late wife, Faith in recognition of his service to Autism Speaks and to the many individuals and families affected by autism. Acknowledging Mr. Geier’s longstanding interest in the field, this grant will be awarded annually to the outstanding researcher, among the many funded by Autism Speaks, seeking to uncover the environmental factors whose interactions with genetic factors might be a cause of autism. This inaugural Geier Grant is awarded to epidemiologist M. Daniele Fallin, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, for her outstanding project on gene-environment interactions entitled “Genome-wide Examination of DNA Methylation in Autism.” For this three-year project, Dr. Fallin will receive $449,998.
Fallin and her team will be studying gene-environment interactions across the entire genome of children affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with a focus on environmental influences during pregnancy, birth and early childhood. At present autism cannot be reliably detected before one year of age. But research suggests that it arises from disordered development during early brain growth and involves both genetic and environmental influences.
“This annual grant represents just the beginning of our commitment to fully investigate the environmental impacts that affect autism risk,” Geier commented. “In the years ahead, you will see us supporting much more research in this neglected area.”
Fallin will be investigating epigenetic changes in the DNA of 300 children with ASD and comparing them to changes in 300 unaffected children. Epigenetics is a rapidly growing field of research examining the factors that influence gene expression. Research has shown, for example, that environmental influences such as infections, nutrition, toxins and hormones can essentially turn genes on or off. Some of these exposures can act much like a mutation to silence a gene or dampen its activity.
On a technical level, Fallin’s team will be looking at changes in DNA methylation, an epigenetic process central to gene regulation. By relating this analysis to information on specific environmental conditions during gestation, birth and early childhood, the findings have the potential to identify avoidable risks and provide guidance for earlier diagnosis and improved treatments.
“The Geier Grant is phenomenal because it recognizes that we need to better understand how environmental influences can alter the biology of the brain and body in ways that affect autism risk,” Fallin said. “Epigenetics may well be the mechanism by which this interaction occurs. It is also the area of research that brings together scientists who study autism’s genetics with those who study environmental influences. It is so vitally important for autism science that we have these two groups working together.”
“We share Phil and Dani’s excitement about this highly innovative project,” added Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, Ph.D. “It will explore in detail, for the first time, whether and how the environment may be influencing gene expression in autism. We hope that this will lead to insights into methods for reducing risk as well as new treatments to improve the lives of those who struggle with autism.”
The Autism Speaks’ Strategic Plan for Science sets environmental research as a priority, stating:
Prevention and treatment of autism through alteration of potential environmental factors is now considered a fundamental goal of research… A wide range of environmental factors needs to be vigorously explored, including but not limited to exposure to toxins, vaccines, chemicals, and immune challenges.
Donations totaling over $640,000 have been received for the Geier fund. Individuals, organizations and corporations who would like to contribute to the Philip and Faith Geier Autism Research Grants in Environmental Sciences, and its focus on environmental research, may contact Richard Brown, Autism Speaks vice president of leadership giving, email@example.com
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $173 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $300 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 29 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 10 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.
About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, EMI Group Global Ltd., and AMC Networks Inc., and is a Trustee of the New York Presbyterian hospital. Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s National Women’s Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School.
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.