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Autism Speaks and Ad Council Continue Award-Winning Campaign with New PSAs Encouraging African American and Hispanic Parents to “Learn the Signs”

Autism Speaks and Ad Council Continue Award-Winning Campaign with New PSAs Encouraging African American and Hispanic Parents to "Learn the Signs"

Extending its award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign, Autism Speaks – the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization – today joined the Ad Council, along with partner agencies BBDO New York and LatinWorks, to announce the launch of a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) designed to reach African American and Hispanic parents. According to research, children in these communities are often diagnosed later than the average. The PSAs, which are being distributed to media outlets nationwide this week, show some of the early signs of autism and encourage parents to take immediate action if their child is not meeting standard developmental milestones.

Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disorder in the U.S., with 1 in 88 children diagnosed, 1 in 54 boys, representing a 78 percent increase in six years. Further, a recent survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 50 school-aged children was on the autism spectrum, suggesting that we may be underestimating the true prevalence.

Autism Speaks has also kicked off the Early Access to Care initiative, focused on reducing the average age of autism diagnosis and increasing access to screening and evidence-based early intervention services.

According to the CDC, the average age of diagnosis is 4-5 years, but a reliable autism diagnosis can be made as early as 18-24 months. While early detection is critical, research shows that many parents have very little knowledge about autism and its symptoms. The current age of diagnosis among low income families, as well as African Americans and Hispanics, is higher than the general public. With appropriate early intervention services from ages 3-5, between 20 percent and 50 percent of children diagnosed with autism will be able to attend mainstream kindergarten.

The new “Maybe” PSAs, created pro bono by Autism Speaks’ award-winning lead creative agency BBDO and LatinWorks, depict parents observing the unusual behavior or non-reaction of their child in seemingly ordinary situations. A child’s lack of eye contact, babbling or big smiles invite parental worry and speculation: “maybe it’s this” or “maybe it’s that.” Showing the subtle presence of potential problems in otherwise everyday instances, the PSAs emphasize that these “maybes” are reasons enough for parents to consult their pediatrician or primary care provider for further screening. The PSAs encourage parents to seek further information about the early signs of autism and additional screening resources at The ads have been developed in English and Spanish for television, radio, print, outdoor and digital media.

“We know we can diagnose children sooner, and the earlier the diagnosis occurs, the faster a child can start receiving intervention, resulting in better outcomes,” said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. “While we have seen a great increase in awareness thanks to our partnership with the Ad Council, many parents still don’t know what red flags to look for in their children’s behavior and development. If a parent has a concern, they should not wait – they should talk to a pediatrician immediately.”

Autism Speaks’ Early Access to Care initiative focuses on reaching out to underserved communities, utilizing new and existing technologies, leveraging local community resources, engaging federal and state partners, using parents and para-professionals as dissemination channels and training providers of screening, diagnosis and intervention techniques. The program includes new website information and resources, screening events with volunteer clinicians, coordinated activities with federal and regional partners, training opportunities for professionals and the distribution of research findings, tools and resources.

Since the launch of the “Learn the Signs” campaign in 2006, the percentage of parents of young children who have spoken with their doctor about autism has increased by more than 60 percent (from 8 to 13 percent) and the number of parents who say autism is very or somewhat common among young children has increased from 45 to 65 percent.

“In the last seven years, our campaign with Autism Speaks has had an extraordinary impact in raising awareness about the early warning signs of autism and encouraging parents to speak to their doctors about it,” said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO, The Ad Council. “These new ads feature realistic situations that parents will identify with, and I believe they will help more minority parents speak to their doctors if they see the signs and get their children the intervention they need.”

The Ad Council is distributing the new PSAs to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide. The ads will air and run in advertising time and space entirely donated by the media. Since the launch of the campaign, media outlets have donated nearly $376 million in time and space for the ads. The PSAs have also earned numerous awards, including an Effie Award for advertising effectiveness in 2008, a Silver Telly in 2009, a Silver Addy and Gold Ogilvy in 2011.

In conjunction with the launch of the campaign, Autism Speaks is also educating through text message. People are encouraged to learn the signs of autism by answering six simple questions via text message. Users can text MAYBE to 30644 to begin or in Spanish, text QUIZAS to 30644. Standard message and data rates may apply.

About Autism Speaks Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It 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. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $195 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships and related activities in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit




SOURCE  The Ad Council

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