NEW YORK, Nov. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The co-founders of Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism advocacy organization, today called for the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate federal crimes that may have been committed in the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal and asked Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and the university board to waive its exemption from the state open record law so that parents, families, victims and the media can have access to all records in this case since 1995. They also implored other national and local child welfare organizations to stand up and sound the alarm to protect all children everywhere.
"The horribly tragic situation at Penn State University is a sobering reminder of what can happen when the powerless have no voice and powerful institutions have no one holding them accountable," said Bob and Suzanne Wright, Autism Speaks co-founders. "It is the cause and effect result of power dynamics at its most extreme, where institutional dominance is protected over the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable; where the most trusted have committed the most serious betrayal. We have seen this pattern before with the Catholic Church scandals and now with the allegations at Syracuse University."
"Autism Speaks is, first and foremost, a voice for people with autism who often do not have the ability to speak for themselves, nor the resources or power to affect the change our community needs," continued the Wrights. "Sadly, individuals on the autism spectrum are often teased, bullied, and abused physically and emotionally. We continually fight to raise awareness of autism, to educate the public and urge the government to dedicate critical resources for services for people with autism. However, our responsibility as advocates must now extend to a much broader community. To truly exhibit the role of advocates, it is incumbent upon us to stand up for all children, wherever and whenever they are in peril. We must be active protectors of our children -- it is not enough to express outrage."
"Every organization that exist to advocate for children – big and small, national and local – must step up now, join together and demand action. Justice in Pennsylvania should be our immediate priority. Meaningful, measurable change in how we protect our kids must be the ultimate goal. We have to do more and do better. What happened at Penn State is a shame and a crime. It is also a collective failure. The failure of Penn State was years in the making; we cannot allow it to take years to conclude."
"This tragedy must become more than a cautionary tale. It is a rallying call to all those who care about the welfare and well-being of children to bring about real change. When a disaster of this magnitude occurs, it is important for all of us to step up and speak out. Bringing our collective influence to bear, we can all make change happen and be the advocates and protectors our children deserve."
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families. The organization 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. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks' Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning "Learn the Signs" campaign with the Ad Council has received over $300 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent's Guide to Autism, and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 28 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 11 states including New York. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.
SOURCE Autism Speaks