The Autism Research Institute (ARI), founded by autism authority Dr. Bernard Rimland in 1967, works to provide pioneering research, advocacy, and outreach directed toward discovering causes and effective treatments for the developmental disability. The nonprofit group, which does not accept any form of special interest funding, works to convene research conferences of physicians and scientists, as well as to provide doctor referrals for the public. Dr. Rimland, author of the landmark 1964 book Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior, pioneered in the study and treatment of the condition, as well as in advocacy on behalf of people with autism, after his own son was diagnosed at age two. Previous to establishing ARI, Dr. Rimland co-founded another advocacy group, the Autism Society.
ARI, based in San Diego, California, functions as a network of support by offering educational programs and discussion groups for parents and teachers online, as well as through providing continuing education credits for health care professionals. It provides help lines for the public in both Spanish and English, and has published translations of some of its most important papers in 15 languages.
Because adults with autism spectrum disorders are often underserved, ARI places particular emphasis on meeting their needs for advocacy, information, and long-term services and social support. The organization supports the Autistic Global Initiative, which strives to provide developmental opportunities for adults on the autism spectrum. The initiative’s membership is led by individuals with autism spectrum disorders, many of them professionals in the fields of education, social work, and medicine. As young adults with autism spectrum disorders age beyond the point at which they are eligible to receive many existing social services, the strain for themselves and their families will increase. Through tapping the knowledge and skills within the community of adults with autism, the Autism Global Initiative hopes to ease this transition and offer solutions based on practical life experiences. In addition to its support for the AGI project, ARI offers videos and a quarterly newsletter dealing with everyday issues affecting adults with autism.
One ARI strength lies in its support for empirical research efforts. Over a recent three-year period, the group contributed approximately $1.5 million toward funding of research grants. In 2013 alone, ARI contributed more than a quarter of a million dollars toward research targeting metabolic, sensory, and neurological issues that affect the daily lives of people with autism. The organization’s quarterly report, Autism Research Review International, offers current information on biomedical and educational projects, and it continues to collaborate with other autism-dedicated organizations and institutions around the world.
Among its other accomplishments over the course of 2013, ARI initiated development of an Internet information portal designed to benefit adults with autism-related conditions, as well as their families and potential hiring organizations, as they seek employment. In addition, ARI began a project devoted to hosting monthly webinars, free of charge, on topics such as health and wellness, education, and assessment for those on the autism spectrum. And through a toll-free number, families and caregivers can reach autism advocates by phone to receive guidance and support.