History

rimlandThe Autism Society was founded in 1965 by Bernard Rimland, Ph.D. His book, Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior, was written in late 1964 and was one of the first of its kind. In 1968, Ruth Sullivan, Ph.D., became the organization’s first elected president. Over the last 40 years, the Society has grown from a handful of parents into the leading source of information, research, reference and support on the autism spectrum. The Autism Society is the oldest and largest grassroots organization within the autism community.

From strong advocacy efforts beginning in 1969 presented to the Joint commission on Mental Health of Children to playing a key role in vital legislative efforts such as Section 504, the Developmental Disabilities Act, the Education for All Handicapped Act (now known as IDEA) and calling for increased autism research, the Autism Society has long been engaged in systemic change that really impacts people’s lives.

The Autism Society began a nationwide awareness campaign in the early ’70s that was adopted by Congress in 1984 and strengthened by the release of the autism awareness ribbon in 1999. The Society launched a project to study brain tissue in 1976 and formed a Foundation focused on applied research in 1996. The first national conference on autism was convened by the Autism Society in 1969 and our organization is proud to have had individuals with autism serve on its Board of Directors and in other key decision-making roles since the ’80s.

Today, more than 120,000 members and supporters are connected through a working network of more than 115 affiliates nationwide. The Autism Society membership continues to grow as more and more parents and professionals unite to form a collective voice representing the autism community.

The Autism Society is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism, their families and the professionals with whom they interact. The Autism Society and its affiliates share a common mission of providing information and education, supporting research, and advocating for programs and services for the autism community.

Click here to read more about the Autism Society’s distinguished history.