BOSTON, April 18, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Game on For Autism Research Foundation LLC (GoFAR) announced its establishment as a new non-profit foundation exclusively dedicated to funding research into technologies designed to help those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). GoFAR was founded under the tutelage of Dr. Leslie Fang. Led by impassioned Cambridge teen Jamie Menhall, GoFAR's mission is to help build a future in which everyone affected by ASD can benefit from evidence-based transformative technologies.
GoFAR has already begun supporting research projects at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital. The funds to do so have come from private individuals, non-profit donors, and corporate sponsors including Herb Chambers, The Endicott Family Charitable Fund, WorldCare International and The Leslie S.T. Fang Foundation. Every dollar raised will be committed to direct funding of clinical research.
For all of the donors, GoFAR is the first foundation led by a minor that they have agreed to support. In addition to financial contributions, GoFAR's benefactors have provided encouragement and advice, leveraging their own reputations to back an ambitious effort led by a teenager.
"Our donors and sponsors are at the heart of everything GoFAR does," said Jamie, now a junior at BU Academy High School in Boston. "They took the time to understand GoFAR's unique vision and our plan for achieving it. Herb Chambers, the Endicott Family, Dr. Fang, and WorldCare have generously agreed to back a kid with no track record. I can never thank them enough!"
Jamie's passion for autism research began over five years ago, at age 12, while volunteering to provide peer support for children and teens with ASD. He noticed difficulties communicating with adolescents with ASD, but saw that many of them shared his passion for video games and other digital technologies. Struck by this observation, Jamie began to research how games and touchscreen technology could be used to help autistic children communicate. It became clear to him that while there was plenty of anecdotal evidence of these tools helping those with ASD, there was a serious lack of hard science backing up such claims. Jamie decided the best way to help fill the void of scientific research would be to establish a nonprofit organization that could directly support researchers studying transformative technologies for ASD.
"The level of empathy and passion Jamie has demonstrated in helping autistic children is admirable and his belief that technology can play an important role for these children is well-founded," said Dr. Leslie Fang, Chairman of GoFAR and Founder of The Leslie S.T. Fang Foundation. "Most importantly, there is no minimum age to giving back and making an impact."
April marks National Autism Awareness Month in support of a disorder that receives less research funding than many less prevalent childhood diseases, despite being one of the fastest growing and among the most disabling developmental disabilities. For families and individuals struggling with the challenges of ASD, there is a dire need for practical help in everyday life.
"The need to understand autism is becoming more important as rates continue to rise," Jamie said. "Technology can have a life-changing effect that can empower the children and improve the lives of everyone affected by ASD."
Funds raised are currently supporting two research projects. Dr. Kirsten Birtwell at Massachusetts General Hospital's Lurie Center for Autism is investigating "Affinity Therapy," an assistive technique that harnesses the power of technology to connect with autistic kids based on their own existing passions. Dr. Susan Faja's GAMES Project at Boston Children's Hospital is testing the efficacy of existing instructional games as tools for helping those with ASD develop better executive function skills.
GoFAR is considering partnering with other research projects that are seeking to improve the quality of life for those affected by ASD. For more information on GoFAR or to make a donation, please visit https://gofarfoundation.org/.
About GoFAR Foundation GoFAR Foundation LLC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization and a division of The Leslie S. T. Fang Foundation, eligible to receive donations that are tax deductible. For more information, visit https://gofarfoundation.org/.