Update: I wrote this post because Chili's was planning a "Give Back" day, funding the National Autism Association for Monday, April 7, 2014. As of Sunday, April 6, 2014, that event has been cancelled. The data on NAA is still accurate.
The organization's stated mission is:
The mission of the National Autism Association is to respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community, providing real help and hope so that all affected can reach their full potential.
- NAA offers funding for biomedical "interventions" for low-income families, through the Helping Hand Program (grants to families comprised 7.9% of NAA's income for 2009-2011).
- NAA provides families with safety/anti-wandering resources, through Big Red Safety Box (free safety toolkit) (grants to families comprised for the BRSB comprised 10.7% of NAA's budget 2011, the only year the BRSB was distributed).
- NAA used to provide support and counseling for parents whose marriage was affected by their child(ren)'s autism, through the Family First program (grants to families comprised 0.4% of NAA's budget for 2009-2011).
- NAA's new program offers communication software and devices, through Give A Voice (no grants yet made)
- NAA claims to be supporting translational autism research, through Progress Research (grants to univeristies accounted for 2.3% of NAA's budget for 2009-2011).
- NAA hosts an annual "National Autism Conference" (The conferences accounted for 33% of NAA's income in 2009-2011 and 30% of expenses).
- NAA provides local support for families via regional chapters (no direct accounting of expenses or income).
- NAA directs families to Yahoo discussion groups (no effect on income or expense).
From the IRS Form 990s published by the National Autism Association, I compiled a summary of the organizations financial activity for the fiscal years 2009, 2010, and 2011 (the last tax return available)
I cannot say I am hugely impressed with the percentage of funds supporting individuals, or the overall dollar amound given. It bothers me that the organziation cannot seem to sustain projects such as Family First. The "Helping Hand" fund seems to be designed to allow families with meagre means to spend money on "biomedical interventions", whhich some physicians refer to as "uncontrolled and unethical experimentation on autistic children".
I am equally unimpressed with the portfolio of grants to organizations. I do not see sustained giving, and I see large grants to Thoughtful House (which has since been reorganized) and to BlackBaud (which sells fundraising software).
I have never been to a National Autism Conference. The lineup of speakers for the 2009 conference read like a "Who's Who in Autism Is Vaccine Injury" or anti-vaccination, pseudoscience purveyors:
- Andrew Wakefield
- Martha Herbert
- Dan Rossignol
- Jeff Bradstreet
- Russell Blaylock
- Jerry Kartzinel
- David Kirby
- Barbara Loe Fisher
In short, the National Autism Association is anti-vaccine to its core, and does very little to "respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community" or provide "real help and hope".
NAA has a few chapters. From this page, http://nationalautismassociation.org/resources/naa-local-chapters/
- National Autism Association of Arkansas
- National Autism Association of Central California (no website)
- National Autism Association of Northwest Indiana
- National Autism Association of Kansas (no website)
- National Autism Association of Massachusetts
- National Autism Association of New York Metro
- National Autism Association of North East Ohio (no website)
- Autism Association of Southeast Ohio
- National Autism Association of North Texas
- National Autism Association of Western Utah<
Updated: I was reminded that Katie Wright, then and now a National Autism Association Board Member, had in 2010 seriously overestimated NAA's influence and reach.
Matt Carey, writing Just How Big Is the National Autism Association, Anyway? at Leftbrain/RightBrain:
I’m open to being corrected, with proof. But, for now, it looks to this observer that the National Autism Association membership is much less than the 12,000 claimed.