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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Organization for Autism Research

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Autism, Autism Research, Disabilities, Health

Mission: The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) was created in December 2001; it is the product of the shared vision and unique life experiences of its seven founders. Led by these parents and grandparents of children and adults on the autism spectrum, OAR set out to use applied science to answer questions that parents, families, individuals with autism, teachers and caregivers confront daily. No other autism organization has this singular focus. The mission of OAR is to apply research to the challenges of autism. OAR defines applied research as research that directly impacts the day-to-day quality of life of people with autism. It entails the systematic investigation of variables associated with positive outcomes in such areas as education, communication, self-care, social skills, employment, behavior, and adult and community living. In this context, it extends to issues related to family support, the efficacy of service delivery systems, and demographic analyses of the autism community. OAR funds studies that address these issues, and uses knowledge gained from research to develop and disseminate resources that are relevant and responsive to the everyday experiences of the entire autism community.

Results: - Funded more than $3.6 million for new autism research: 98 grants/$3,345,000 for pilot studies and $191,660 in grants to 105 graduates - Awarded $476,000 in scholarships to 156 persons with autism attending college or vocational-technical schools after high school - Published eight guides in the Life Journey through Autism series: A Parent’s Guide to Research, An Educator’s Guide to Autism, An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome, A Guide for Transition to Adulthood, A Parent’s Guide to Assessment, A Guide for Military Families, Navigating the Special Education System, A Guide to Safety, and An Educator's Guide to Autism (Level 1 Supports) - Created Operation Autism, a website that provides military families impacted by autism with information 24/7 - Introduced the “Autism in the School House” program built around the Kit for Kids Peer Education Initiative and Understanding Autism, a “Curriculum-in-a-Box” containing resource guides and a curriculum DVD that gives middle and high school teachers a basic understanding of autism and best practices for teaching students with autism - Created and delivered three new resources related to siblings of individuals with autism, one for parents, one for teen siblings, and a fun workbook for younger siblings. - Created Hire Autism, a unique jobs portal that allows adults with autism to meet prospective employers in an autism-friendly online meeting space

Programs: scholarships, applied research grants, graduate research grants, evidence-based information resources, and more.

Community Stories

105 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve on OAR's Scientific Council. It's humbling to serve alongside such a stellar, diverse group of professionals, parents, and individuals with ASD who willingly dedicate (and donate) their time and expertise to evaluate and make decisions on grant proposals that advance OAR's mission. And we do so because of OAR's laser focus on funding applied research that helps individuals with autism and their families with answers they need today. Unlike other grant funding organizations, OAR requires that researchers applying for their grants describe the practical relevance of the study as well as how the anticipated outcomes will make a meaningful difference in the lives of people with autism. But it doesn't stop there. Once these studies are funded and then completed, OAR uses the data to inform and create educational resources for families, self-advocates, siblings, educators, students, and employers, extending their reach far beyond the research their grants support. As a fellow nonprofit leader, I draw inspiration from all that OAR continues to achieve and am immensely proud to serve this impactful organization.

--Daniel Openden, Ph.D., BCBA, President and CEO, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC)

Carla W.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a stay at home mom, OAR provided me with the opportunity to continue pursuing my passion of advocating for those with autism. I was given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects all which fueled my passion, allowed me to interact with amazing professionals, and help me grow professionally! The organization is professional and family friendly! I look forward to volunteering with this organization!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I first learned or OAR when I teamed with its Run for Autism fundraising and race training campaign to prepare for my first half marathon. A year later, the Run for Autism helped me train and remain motivated to complete my first marathon. In addition to helping me complete two physical feats I once thought were not possible for me, OAR has helped me learn so much about autism and how I can be a better autism parent. I am honored to be part of connecting others with OAR and helping to expand the opportunities for research that this organization provides.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

We have a son who is now 27 years old and on the autism spectrum. My first contact with OAR was in 2006 when we were having difficulties with our school district. Their resident expert guru on Autism, Peter Gerhert, jumped in hands on to help! Even flew to Miami to help us. My husband who is a runner began raising fins for their non-profit. He was their top fundraiser for many years. He extensively researched them and found that a minor portion goes to administrative fees. OAR is a tremendous organization. They publish manuals and materias that help people now. They lecture and disseminate information that helps people today. I also was fortunate to serve on their board for many years. I highly recommend them as a non-profit of choice. They are accessible and provide a valuable resource to our autism population and spending the majority of funds help our population. Thanks to Oar and all they do!
As I go to ply lush this review I am asked to choose my role... I have been all of them in this order:
Volunteer, client served, donor, Board Member, and currently am a general member of the public.

Cathy Schwallie F.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The Organization for Autism Research is a top organization benefiting many impacted by ASD. I have known and been volunteering for OAR for over 5 years. The OAR maintains awareness on the every changing landscape of the Autism Spectrum Disorder world. OAR keeps administrative costs to a bare minimum, allowing most monies granted to be shared for resource creation, communication, grants and scholarships to benefit those that are impacted by ASD. They keep highly qualified and dedicated staff on point to deliver high quality work.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been affiliated with the Organization for Autism Research for 15 years. I learned about OAR's mission and support for applied research and was fortunate to be awarded an applied research grant in 2004. Since that time, several of my graduate students have been supported through OAR's graduate research awards. I have supported OAR by fund raising through the Run for Autism program and currently serve as a member of the Scientific Council of OAR. At every turn, OAR reflects its mission to "Raise Money. Fund Research. Change Lives." The Board, staff, and Scientific Council are "all in" in supporting the mission of OAR and the focus on applied research is real and fills an important role in the autism community. I am honored to have been affiliated with OAR for 15 years and look forward to supporting OAR for many more. Great group of dedicated professionals!

Michael John C.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As both a parent of a child on the spectrum, a person myself on the spectrum, and a professional in the field, I've known OAR for close to 20 years now. I do not support research organizations lightly. Too often they are based in medical knowledge that is 40 years away from benefitting the average, working-class family with a child with autism. Too often they are the passion of wealthier folks whose kids have all their services needs taken care of...Not OAR. Their work helps the living. And personally, their people are some of the smartest and best I know of in the field. An affirmative 5 stars. Michael John Carley www.michaeljohncarley.com

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

OAR offers fantastic resources for the autism community! The sexual health online resources fill an important gap. I am glad this online resource is available and because it can be accessed in a very accessible format at people's own time and pace.

Sophie T.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the immense fortune to be an intern with OAR this past summer (2019), and after working there 9-5:30 every day for 10 weeks straight, I have nothing but good things to say about this wonderful organization and all the people who dedicate their time to it! I entered my internship this summer with relatively little formal work experience, and I can honestly say I left OAR feeling a lot more confident in my abilities, comfortable in a work environment, and inspired to continue seeking out the type of work I had the chance to do while at OAR.
Everyone who is part of the OAR family genuinely loves what they do, and it shows in their work. I was able to witness firsthand how incredible an organization can be when it incorporates passion, integrity, and flawless coordination in all levels of its work! I certainly am grateful to have been a part of this organization, and I look forward to continuing that participation in the future, whether it be running a marathon for OAR, donating, or however else I can!

PJ H.

Client Served

Rating: 5

As an individual with Aspergers Syndrome, it is refreshing to have an organization committed to hearing the voices of individuals with Autism and genuinely caring about their life outcomes. OAR knew that the stars were the limit for me and encouraged and supported me as I entered my formative adult years. The work they are doing is helping individuals with Autism break down barriers to success and shape a better world!

David B.13

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My daughter and I have had the opportunity to be a part of the Run for Autism team for several races and have only wonderful things to say about the team. This is truly a top notch of professionals who support you throughout training with fundraising ideas, training and encouragement as you prepare to take on the challenge! On race day, the team is once again on top of their game. They are ready to full support and encourage you at the start, mid-race and an outstanding meetup at the end of the race.
OAR is very personal for us as our youngest son is on the Autism Spectrum. The resources and support they provide have been instrumental in his development and education for us as parents. I am even more excited about OAR as the have a recently focused on “Hire Autism” this could not be timelier for us as our son is now 15. We know this will be the next critical stage for him and knowing they are behind us makes his future much less daunting. My daughter and I look forward to running with OAR at the Chicago Marathon in just a few short weeks and am thrilled to have already hit my fundraising goal! Go Team OAR!

Client Served

Rating: 5

OAR's Hire Autism program helped to place our adult disabled son with a great new employer, Hidden Creek Country Club in Reston, VA. The job search took almost a year but they showed great perseverance, particularly Amanda Rioux. Our son is much more fulfilled and eagerly looks forward to going to work each week. His employer has gone out of their way to accommodate his disabilities and enable him to succeed in his new role. Thanks again to OAR for all their support!!

Donor

Rating: 5

As a former staff member, I took great pride in OAR and the care the staff, board, and volunteers had towards the Autism realm. The compassion, innovation, and overall support that OAR provides to people is fantastic! I know autism professionals that strive to be a funded researcher, and love the innovative methods to treatments is second to none. Since leaving the organization I can constantly referring people to researchautism.org and bragging about the amazing work they do. As a donor, I believe in the organization and greatly appreciate the impact they made on my life as staff, but more importantly the impact they make on the lives of my neighbors who utilize their resources. THANK YOU, OAR for being such a tremendous organization!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As the father of a low functioning 5 year old boy Autism, I learned about OAR approximately 6 months ago as I searched for an organization to be a part of in order to help the lives of Autistic individuals and their families. As I've learned more about the initiatives that OAR has developed and been a part of, I can't tell you how grateful I am for OAR's commitment to helping those with Autism. I have been in close communication with OAR's executive director over the course of the last 6 months who has shown such dedication and great leadership for OAR.

As a prospective board member, I recently attended OAR's annual meeting. It was very clear that a high percentage of a donor's contribution goes toward helping the lives of those with Autism rather than covering administrative costs. While any organization will have administrative costs, it was clear that OAR runs a very lean organization and monitors very closely where donor's contributions are going.

OAR's focus is on helping those with Autism (and their families) deal with the myriad of challenges involved in becoming functional individuals in society. OAR does this in numerous ways such as granting college/vocational scholarships to those with Autism, providing online and print resources to Autistic individuals (and their families), and working with Autistic individuals to link them with Autistic friendly employers. OAR also provides grant funding to researchers who participate in "applied research". Simply put, applied research is research focused on developing ways to directly improve the lives of those with Autism.

As an Autism parent, I know the struggles and challenges for those with Autism and their families. It is very clear that OAR is improving the lives of those with Autism in becoming functional adults and dealing with their condition. Any contribution you can make toward this organization will be so greatly appreciated by more people than you can imagine.

Gregory B.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was looking for a charity to run for back in 2003 so I could gain an entry into the Marine Corps Marathon. I chose the Organization for Autism Research. I've run for them every year since, bringing in a small amounts of donations from my friends/family. I've been impressed over the years by the great research they have been doing to help families with autistic children - the fruit of their tireless fundraising efforts.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

After a dear friend of mine started working for OAR, she recommended me to be a parent contributor to their monthly OARacle newsletter. I was beyond honored. The OARacle newsletter is an example of the community needed to raise children with autism with contributions from parents, doctors, therapists, educators and self-advocates.

I'm grateful for the research OAR funds, directly benefiting from an executive functioning curriculum OAR supported. Unstuck & On Target is a research based executive functioning curriculum that teaches parents and children the skills and scripts needed to help our children (and us as parents) develop the skills to be more flexible in life and plan for the unexpected.

As a military family, I LOVE that OAR has chosen to address the unique challenges of raising children with autism in the military. It creates its own unique challenges with constant transition, moving every couple of years and often being away from family support.

I love OAR so much I'm an Autism Materials Distributor volunteer sharing their FREE resources with our community in Frederick, MD. I will continue to educate others about autism using OAR's resources. This year I'm planning to build autism awareness at my son's new school using OAR's Kit for Kids.

OAR, we sincerely appreciate all you do to make our lives a little bit easier through your mission to fund applied research and your FREE resources for the community!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I learned about OAR’s Hire Autism program last winter while meeting with a group of parents who have young adult children with Autism and other developmental disabilities. When our 23 year old son came home from college at spring break, I put him in touch with Naina Chernoff to learn more about how Hire Autism could assist with his summer job search. Naina worked directly with our son to help him think about what types of opportunities he was interested in pursuing. Our son has learning difficulties and speech disfluency, but is diligent and hardworking and will receive his bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management this year. Naina made several introductions on his behalf, and due to her outreach efforts, as well as her great mentorship and coaching, our son was able to work at a country club and gain direct hospitality experience. The club’s staff and management were wonderful and interested in providing employment opportunities for individual like our son, but hadn’t really thought about how to make that happen. The Hire Autism program was able to open that first door for our son. He gained valuable work experience and confidence over the summer, and I believe the club’s staff and members benefitted from have him as part of the team as well. We are very grateful to Naina and the staff at Hire Autism for all their help. Hire Autism opens doors!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have worked as an intern for Organization For Autism Research, Inc. (OAR) since June; not only is this internship extremely fulfilling in terms of career and personal goals, but I also get to directly see the beneficial effects that OAR has on the autism community. These effects can be seen through the free resources we provide and the research we fund. I've had the opportunity of talking to people via social media who want to learn more about autism, and I can show them OAR's resources with confidence that they will find everything they need. As an intern, the staff has been very nice, friendly, and supportive. All of the OAR employees are especially dedicated to their work and OAR's goals. I highly recommend checking out OAR's website, https://researchautism.org/, because these resources could change lives! I still plan on sending them to family and friends after my internship ends and as new resources are published.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Rather than focus on cause or cure, OAR focuses on providing resources that help individuals with autism live their best lives, as well as educators, parents, siblings, employers, co-workers and anybody else whose lives are touched by autism. One of OAR's newer programs, Hire Autism, assists job-seekers with autism in their search for meaningful employment. The members of the Hire Autism team work directly with job seekers to assist them as they apply for jobs. The team also works hard to engage employers who are interested in providing employment opportunities to this largely untapped talent pool. Through a unique online platform, Hire Autism helps connect job-seekers with employers. With an estimated 80-85% unemployment rate for this population, I am encouraged to see OAR tackling this incredibly important issue. OAR is opening doors that have remained closed for far too long.
I've had the pleasure of talking with applicants who had just been hired, some for the very first time. Their joy and excitement at finally being able to work was immeasurable. The opportunity to grow and learn while increasing their independence and earning money is something every person should be able to experience. OAR is making that a reality. I strongly encourage people to check out hireautism.org and learn more about this valuable resource.

Hillary Steele M.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

When. Y son was diagnosed with autism, I knew I wanted to raise awareness. I decided to do this by running a marathon. I really wanted to run for an organization that actually uses a majority of donations to fund research. This is how I found OAR. I have received so much support from the organization, and it has Become my number one autism charity to support. It’s such a wonderful organization, and I am so proud to be a part of it. #TeamCole

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

For the past two years, I have committed to raising money to support OAR and everything it does for kids, adults and families living with autism. My 13-year old son, William, is autistic and running for OAR is one way I can contribute to OAR’s efforts to help foster more acceptance, support and opportunities for kids like William. OAR’s focus on research to help people with autism prepare for their future, whether it be to attend school, acquire vocational skills, live independently or secure jobs, is something I believe in and want to continue to support. Families living with autism are so often focused on the here and now, celebrating daily successes and milestones, dealing with the day-to-day emotions, making it hard to think about the future of our children and what their needs will be, 5, 10, 15 years from now. OAR is working to help create tools, resources and opportunities to help our children be successful later in life. I know I can look to OAR as a source for advocacy and guidance for my son as he gets older, and I will continue to champion OAR through my running to help support their mission and their efforts to prepare kids like William for the challenges and opportunities he will face in the years to come.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My name is Sasha Grossman, and I got to experience the wonderful opportunity of interning with Hire Autism this past summer of 2018, after completing my freshman year at Virginia Tech. Hire Autism and OAR strives each and every day to promote inclusivity and acceptance into the workforce for job seekers with autism in the Northern Virginia area. I saw this firsthand; through working alongside an ambitious, dedicated, and determined staff, I got to see how Hire Autism truly works with individuals step by step in a customized job search assistance. This has helped to achieve the not only Hire Autism’s goal of helping to hire individuals in a variety of job placements that interest them, but to make the at times, tumultuous and frustrating job search more comfortable and extremely adaptable for families and individuals with autism. I worked heavily with Hire Autism’s social media development, especially Facebook (go check them out! @hireautism) which I feel has a wonderful combination of helpful tips and tricks for the job search, updates on new employers that sign on with the Hire Autism website, and much more. The numerous resources, passionate employees, and overall mission amazed me when I first started with OAR, and continues to do so today as I am so thankful to have been able to work here.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

OAR’s resources are really great. What they do for families is truly incredible. I am a therapist and my son was just diagnosed. I have looked and asked for good resources for families for years. These are the best I have found. The fact that they supply resources at no cost is amazing. Thank you so much for the difference you are making!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The team was caring and passionate about their goals and objectives. It was great working with them and sharing their excitement and commitment to furthering the cause of educating those affected about Autism research and better understanding the condition.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I recently volunteered with this organization. Very professional and caring personnel who are motivated, informed advocates!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Spent an incredible couple of hours learning about Organization for Autism Research and everything the organization advocates for while helping the staff prepare for an upcoming meeting. The team members were incredibly helpful, insightful and cheerful while we worked together and learned more about the organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a new volunteer with OAR, the team provided a comprehensive overview of the history of autism and the organization's goals. The team also highlighted resources available to families and how we as volunteers may remain involved. I thank OAR for enlightening me regarding autism and how we can make a difference for the organization and empower people living with autism to lead healthy lives. Thank-you again for the opportunity to volunteer.

Board Member

Rating: 5

We had a great time volunteering at OAR! Their contributions to the autism community are fantastic and have many practical applications for students at home and school. My team helped them prepare for a fundraising campaign and update their anchor guide to autism for families receiving a new diagnosis.

1 Kyleigh M.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the privilege of interning with OAR this past summer for 3 months. Having just finished my freshman year at Auburn, they took a chance on me and I am so grateful that they did. I had the opportunity to help create a "Guide to College" for students with ASD, and every idea I had was supported. I specifically worked with the Programs and Outreach staff, and the resources, free to anyone who would benefit from them, are incredible. From guides in Spanish to guides to Navigating the Special Education System, OAR is there to help every step of the way. The staff is small but incredibly passionate, and helps individuals with autism and their families throughout the entire country - one of the things that amazes me the most about this organization.

Maria Isabel V.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The Organization for Autism Research is my saving grace! I run for them, I raise funds for them and I am heavily involved in everything they support! As a parent there are no words when an organization is dedicated and committed to research, education and resources to assist with children, teenagers and adults touched by autism. Just knowing that they are there for all of us is a blessing! Thank you for all that you do everyday!

Client Served

Rating: 5

OAR is a wonderful organization to work with. They provide invaluable resources to parents, siblings, teachers, and other populations affected by autism, all backed by trusted scientific research. Their dedication to helping people affected by autism is evident not just by their work, but also by their passionate employees, their involvement in local communities, and even their office space. It’s amazing that 87% of their funds go directly towards research and services; not many other nonprofits can say the same. We’re proud to work with OAR on a daily basis and look forward to seeing this organization grow!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Our organization refers families and the general public to the Autism Siblings Initiative and Guide book sections. The resources are valuable. No sense recreating the wheel - just use OAR.
I personally have reached out to OAR directly. Someone in the organization always gets back to me within 2 days and they follow up!
The website is easy for anyone to navigate which makes it easier for everyone.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was awarded a scholarship from OAR that was instrumental in helping me successfully complete college. As a person with autism, I know there are not always many resources available for older students or adults on the spectrum. I am glad that OAR has chosen to do much of their work in this area specifically, which I think is unique among organizations working with autism.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My name is Meghana Shetty and I had the privilege of interning at OAR for 6 months- it was an incredibly fulfilling experience! I came to OAR hoping to learn how scientific research is translated into practical resources for real people- years of volunteer work with autism taught me how tricky it can be for families to find reliable resources for their loved ones. OAR's unique mission to “use applied science to answer the questions that parents, families, individuals with autism, teachers, and caregivers confront daily” immediately jumped out to me. In addition to funding applied research projects at top autism research institutions, OAR develops thoughtful, research-based resources catered to the diverse range of issues (and individuals!) in the autism community. The dedicated staff collaborates with influential autism professionals to ensure useful and credible information is available for those who need it. As an intern, I was allowed to contribute directly to several projects such as Schoolhouse Outreach, the college resource, and the research grant competition . In the process, I learned a great deal about nonprofit work, resource development, national outreach, and the current state of autism research. I also learned how highly regarded OAR is by the professionals, fundraisers, and families who work with them and benefit from their work. It was a pleasure working with OAR's caring and dedicated staff and I would proudly encourage anyone in the autism community to check them out!

2 Collette Sosnowy

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The Organization for Autism Research plays an important role in advancing research by funding a variety of projects that impact the daily lives of individuals with autism and their families. Their support for our project about youth transitioning out of high school is helping to shed light on where young people need more support as they navigate the challenging shift into adulthood. Their numerous resources are also a big help for families!