“OAR will focus on the children, adults, and families living with autism today.” With that clear purpose, Jim Sack, Chairman of the Organization for Autism Research (OAR), and six other parents or grandparents of children and adults with autism created a new foundation in December 2001. They envisioned a research foundation that would support high quality, practical research and effectively communicate science-based information to the community, striving to answer the questions that parents, families, individuals with autism, teachers, and caregivers confront each day. That vision is being realized today as OAR continues to fund new research studies - projects selected on the basis of scientific merit and, most significantly, for their potential to provide meaningful outcomes for persons with autism, their families, teachers and other front-line caregivers - and produce community-friendly resources that focus on current research and evidence-based information about autism intervention and treatment.
OAR’s mission is to apply research to the challenges of autism. This implies three primary tasks: (1) fund research and (2) provide useful, evidence-based information to the autism community, and (3) educate parents and professionals on best practices in autism treatment and methods for translating research to practice.
Vision. OAR’s vision is to be the leader in using science-based research to provide practical answers, alternatives, and solutions to the autism community. This vision expresses a future in which OAR leads the way in funding applied autism research. It establishes OAR’s intent to see steady growth in fundraising, provide sustained support for applied autism research, and continue to seek the best ways to use scientific methods and results to inform and educate all the stakeholders in the autism community. Most of all, OAR’s vision is for a future where the collaborative efforts of many good organizations leads to a global understanding of autism that emphasizes abilities and possibilities over disability.
When OAR was founded, the accepted prevalence rate of autism was 1 in 500 births. Today that has risen to 1 in 150 births. OAR’s founders foresaw that with autism on the increase, more and more parents, family members, clinicians, and educators would soon be experiencing the full range of challenges that come with autism. They also knew that time was of the essence for effective autism intervention. They understood from their own experience that the autism community needed real-time, practical answers on the best methods, therapies and treatments for the immediate education and support of those living with autism and that the answers would come from treatment research. It is OAR’s singular focus in this area of research that makes it unique.
Research: OAR funds pilot studies and targeted research on issues that affect the daily lives of children and adults with autism and families. OAR’s focus is on studies whose outcomes offer new insights into the behavioral and social development of individuals with autism across the lifespan with an emphasis on socialization, communication, education, and vocational challenges. Since 2002, OAR has awarded more than $1.7 million in research grants.
Applied Research Competition– awards research grants of $30,000 to $60,000 based on scientific merit and practical value of expected outcomes. Autism Research Convocation– a biennial forum that focuses on a specific, priority topic. Graduate Research Grants Program– awards grants to graduate and post-doctoral students to encourage careers in autism research.
Information: Parents and professionals alike have access to much unfiltered and often unresearched information about autism and autism treatment. OAR sees providing evidence-based information part of its mission and accomplishes this through OAR’s Autism Information Program.
Life Journey through Autism series– five reader-friendly resource guides on research, assessment, education, and life transitions for parents, teachers, and service providers. The OARacle– monthly e-newsletter on current research, useful resources, and news in the autism community. Web site– targeted information for Family & Friends, Educators & Service Providers, and Professionals. Latino Outreach Program– an initiative to culturally adapt and provide OAR’s resources to the Latino community. An Autism Guide for Military Families– (2009) a web-based resource for broad access and reference and a hard copy publication as a personal tool for individual families.
Education: Keeping pace with advances in autism research and intervention and understanding how to practically apply their findings are a continuing challenge and necessity for all stakeholders in the autism community. OAR addresses this need through its educational programs to enhance the quality of life and further the success of persons with autism in all academic settings.
Applied Autism Research and Intervention Conference– annual update on the “State of the Science” in autism research and evidence-based practice presented in layman’s terms. Schwallie Family Scholarship Program– a merit based scholarship for persons with autism pursuing post-secondary education at a two or four-year college or trade school. Asperger Syndrome Adult Initiative– a series of informational DVDs designed for college students with Asperger Syndrome (AS) to educate professors and resident assistants about the disorder and the supports that will help a student with AS succeed in the classroom and in life on campus.
The incidence of autism continues to rise with prevalence estimates as high as 1 in every 150 births (CDC, 2007). It is a developmental disorder that affects an estimated 1.7 million Americans and their families. Despite its rise and greater public awareness, myths and poor information abound, leaving parents and their children figuratively in no man’s land. Parents need the best and latest information that science can offer, and they need to receive it in a consumable form and from reliable sources, citing information drawn from research and evidence-based practice. Applied – or intervention – research informs current practice and is at the heart of OAR’s mission.
OAR sets challenging goals each year and has a growing record of accomplishments. OAR’s Board of Directors will set goals for 2010 when it meets in October. Here are OAR’s goals for 2009:
-Fund six to eight new research studies ($300,000 in total grants) through the annual research competition
-Award 20 grants ($30,000) in the Graduate Research Grants Program
-Publish two new resource books in the Life Journey through Autism series: A Guide to Housing and Residential Supports and An Autism Guide for Military Families, as the sixth and seventh publications in OAR’s series of community-oriented guides
-Host the seventh annual Applied Autism Research and Intervention Conference
-Conduct the seventh RUN FOR AUTISM with a goal of raising $1 million for autism research
-Continue to disseminate evidence-based information through OAR’s annual conference, the Web site, resource guides, monthly e-newsletter, and Latino Outreach Program.
Mike V. Maloney became the Executive Director for the Organization for Autism Research in December 2001. Mike’s responsibilities include establishing OAR as a national organization, introducing and maintaining programs of high value to the autism community, and directing OAR’s fundraising efforts to support current research and information programs and future goals.
Mike began his nonprofit career in August 1992 after 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, when he became the Deputy Executive Director of the Marine Corps University Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization in Quantico, VA. He subsequently became the Executive Director and led a period of growth that resulted in an annual campaign surpassing $1 million for the first time in 1998. In 1999, he joined the Autism Society of America (ASA) Foundation as its Executive Director. Under his hand the ASA Foundation experienced two years of steady growth capped by CycleUSA-the first national fundraising event for autism. Mike left the ASA Foundation in November 2001 to help found OAR.
A native of Weymouth, MA, Mike attended Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, MA and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, in 1969. Immediately following graduation, he entered the U.S. Marine Corps. During his service, Mike commanded infantry units at the platoon, company, and battalion levels, served in Vietnam and the Gulf War, as well as in training and staff assignments at Quantico, VA; Parris Island, SC; Kaneohe Bay, HI; Okinawa, Japan; Washington, DC; and London, England.
Mike and his wife, Elaine, live in Burke, VA and have two sons, Kevin and Doug. Mike’s interests include writing, reading, sports, and enjoying his sons’ musical endeavors.
James M. Sack Chairman Great Falls, Virginia Teenage son and daughter with autism
Madeline Millman Vice Chairman Englewood, New Jersey Grandson with autism
Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D. President and Chair, Scientific Council Baltimore, Maryland Autism professional
Dean Koocher Treasurer White Plains, New York Teenage son with autism
Michael V. Maloney Executive Director and Secretary - Non-voting Burke, Virginia
William Donlon Hicksville, New York Son with autism
Anthony Ferrera Hillsborough, New Jersey Son with autism
Roger Heymann Bethesda, Maryland Son with autism
Lisa Hussman Ellicott City, MD Son with autism
Lori Lapin Jones Great Neck, New York Son with Asperger Syndrome
Gloria M. Satriale Chester Springs, Pennsylvania Son with autism
Edward H. Schwallie Manasquan, New Jersey Two adult sons – one with autism, another with Asperger Syndrome
Gregory Smith Lorton, Virginia Daughter with autism
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2111 WILSON BLVD STE 600 ARLINGTON, VA 22201-3051 Phone: (703) 243-9710 http://www.researchautism.org EIN: 54-2062167
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