9 Best Charities for Autism (Complete 2021 List)

9 Best Charities for Autism (Complete 2021 List)

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Dennis Kamprad

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It’s estimated that about 1% of the world’s population has autism, with the condition costing affected families around $60,000 per year. Despite being widespread, autism is still poorly understood. Autism charities around the world are dedicating themselves to making the lives of people with autism easier and work tirelessly to raise awareness of the condition. So we had to ask: What are the best charities for autism?

The best charities for autism in terms of overall impact are Autism Speaks and the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. Charities such as the Asperger/Autism Network and the STAR Institute are fantastic for providing support and guidance to individual families impacted by autism.

Whether you want to help a child with autism reach their full potential and become a fully integrated member of society or you want to aid scientists in finding a cure for the condition, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for autism are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for Autism Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They all strongly advocate for people with autism to be given the same respect and opportunities as everyone else and invest heavily in autism research in the hope of finding a cure.

Some of the charities on this list focus solely on research, whereas others focus on providing assistance and guidance for families impacted by autism. However, they all share the same goal; to ensure that every person with autism reaches their full potential and are considered valuable members of their communities. 

These Are the 9 Best Charities for Autism

Below are our favorite charities for autism (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

Autism Speaks: Enhancing Lives 

Autism Speaks was set up in 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright after their own grandson was diagnosed with autism. Since then, the charity has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization; raising funds for groundbreaking scientific studies and offering valuable services for families with members on the autism spectrum. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Autism Speaks holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“A world where all people with autism can reach their full potential.”

Autism Speaks

What they do: Autism Speaks raises awareness of the issues facing people with autism through their world autism month campaign, advocacy, and regular fundraising and awareness events across the US. The charity also offers grants to scientists and researchers who are committed to deepening our understanding of autism. In 2015, Autism Speaks launched a web-based portal to allow researchers worldwide to access the world’s largest genomic database on autism. 

What they’ve achieved: To date, Autism Speaks has invested $222 million in scientific grants and has successfully advocated for autism insurance benefits covering 204 million people across all 50 states. They also created a comprehensive resource database of autism services which is accessed by 201 million people and supported 22.6 million people and their families through their own autism services and resources. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Autism Speaks through their website. Alternatively, you can join one of their many fundraising events or set up your own. You can also support the charity and raise awareness of their work by purchasing items from their online shop.

Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation For Autism: Helping People Affected By Autism

The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism was founded in 1998 by Doug Flutie and his wife Laurie after their son Doug Jr. was diagnosed with childhood disintegrative disorder (a rare autism spectrum disorder) at the age of three. At that time, there were no services offered for families with autism, so the charity was set up to help people with autism access education, programs, and therapies to live life to the fullest.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation For Autism has a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator. According to their financial report, the charity spent 71% of its income on family grants and 23% on camp scholarships.

“A world where people with autism lead productive lives where they are included, respected, and actively engaged in their communities.”

Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation For Autism

What they do: The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation For Autism helps families living with autism by providing financial assistance through their Joey’s Fund Grant Program and the Spectrum For Hope Fund. They also offer camp scholarships for people with autism through their Fun in the Sun water sports programs in Massachusetts and Florida. Their Safe and Secure Program distributes free SafetyNet tracking devices to carers of children with autism, to ensure that public safety agencies can rescue individuals with cognitive conditions who are prone to wandering off.

What they’ve achieved: To date, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation For Autism has distributed over $14 million to schools, families, and community organizations across the US. Each year, the charity offers 150 camp scholarships to people with autism and financially assists over 10,000 families affected by autism. Their Safe and Secure Program has kept 500 children with autism safe through the use of SafetyNet Tracking Systems.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism through their website. You can also host your own fundraising event to support the charity or volunteer at one of their many annual awareness events. 

Organization For Autism Research: Applying Research To The Challenges Of Autism

The Organization For Autism Research (OAR) was founded in 2001 by seven individuals whose families had been directly affected by autism, to provide valuable resources and fund research to improve the lives of autistic individuals. Today the charity focuses on funding pilot studies that focus on improving the everyday challenges faced by people with autism, including education, communication, and social skills.  

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Organization For Autism Research holds the Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator

“Raise Money. Fund research: Change Lives.”

Organization For Autism Research

What they do: The Organization For Autism Research funds research studies that can be applied to help families, educators, and individuals deal with the daily impacts and struggles that autism brings, including innovative teaching methods and communication tools. They also offer scholarship programs to autistic children attending post-secondary education. In addition, the charity has published numerous online resources and guidebooks to provide guidance on how to deal with everyday tasks and to educate children on the symptoms and difficulties that come with autism.  

What they’ve achieved: To date, the Organization For Autism Research has funded over $4 million in autism research and has awarded $1,068,000 in scholarships to 356 individuals pursuing further education. In 2018, they launched Operation Autism which is a web-based resource designed to assist and support military families impacted by autism. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Organization For Autism Research through their website. There are also numerous volunteer opportunities with the charity including blog contribution and youth education leadership roles. 

Autism Society Of America: A Friend For Life

The Autism Society Of America was founded in 1965 by Dr. Bernard Rimland, Dr. Ruth Sullivan, and numerous other parents of children with autism. The charity began a nationwide awareness campaign in the early 70s which has recently been strengthened by the development of the autism awareness ribbon in 1999. Since the launch of the charity, it has grown to become a leading source of information, research, and support for people on the autism spectrum.  

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Autism Society of America holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. According to their financial report, the charity spent 31% of its income on education and advocacy, 51% on core services, and 12% on fundraising. 

“Envisioning a world where individuals and families living with autism are able to maximize their quality of life, and live in a society in which their talents and skills are valued.”

Autism Society of America

What they do: The Autism Society of America provides a national Monday-Friday contact center and helpline service through their toll-free number 800-3AUTISM run by trained staff and referral specialists. They also have an Autism Source Database which is the most comprehensive database of its kind, providing over 35,000 listings of credible information and reliable resources surrounding all aspects of autism. In addition, the charity supports people with autism by providing financial support, fundraising assistance, and advocacy

What they’ve achieved: According to their annual report, the Autism Society of America, alongside their 79 affiliates, served more than 552,000 individuals and families impacted by autism in 2019. In the same year, they also answered 161,791 calls through their helpline (with 91% of people finding the resource beneficial), and trained 6,742 first responders to interact safely with autistic patients. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Autism Society of America through their website, or you can purchase items from their online Autism Society store.

The Autism Community In Action: Providing Education, Support, And Hope

The Autism Community In Action (formally known as Talk About Curing Autism) was founded in 2000 by Lia Ackerman as a parent support group after her own son was diagnosed with autism in 1999. Today, the charity works to provide support services and educational programs to families and individuals impacted by autism. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Autism Community In Action holds the Bronze Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator

“For every individual diagnosed with autism to lead an independent life.”

The Autism Community In Action

What they do: The Autism Community In Action provides education programs and support services to people with autism, through regular seminars, meetings, and family events held across the US via their individually run chapters. They also run online educational webinars on various autism-related topics and online support groups, as well as a Parent Mentor Program where new parents are matched with trained TACA Parent Mentors for one-one support and guidance.  

What they’ve achieved: To date, The Autism Community In Action has supported 48,000 individuals and families living with autism through their initiatives and support network. They have also awarded $195,000 in medical scholarships to families in need and educated 9,260 individuals through their Autism Education Programs. In 2020, the Autism Community In Action matched 445 new parents with TACA mentors through their Parent Mentor Program.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Autism Community In Action through their website. You can also support the charity by setting up a fundraising event, volunteering at one of their events, or by purchasing items from their online shop

Autism Research Institute: Making A Difference Through Research

The Autism Research Institute was founded in 1967 by renowned psychologist Dr. Bernard Rimland, who has always maintained that autism is treatable. Today, the charity is a leading advocate for biological autism research and provides online educational events and outreach programs for people that have been impacted by autism.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Autism Community In Action holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator

“Working to support the health and well-being of people affected by autism.”

Autism Research Institute

What they do: The Autism Research Institute awards research grants to scientists studying the underlying causes of, and treatments for, Autism Spectrum Disorders. They also offer a variety of free online support services to people and families impacted by autism, including educational webinars, as well as autism screening and assessment tools.  

What they’ve achieved: Over the last decade, the Autism Research Institute has awarded more than $2.9 million in over 87 research grants. In 2020, the charity facilitated over 40,000 autism treatment evaluation checklists which are now available in 24 languages. In the same year, the Autism Research institute networked with 110 parent support groups and clinicians in 52 countries, including areas such as South America and Eastern Europe where autism awareness and facilities are underdeveloped.  

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Autism Research Institute through their website. If you are a parent of a child with autism you can also sign up to be part of one of their research studies.

Autism Science Foundation: Supporting Autism Research

The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) was founded in 2009 by Alison Tepper Singer, a former senior executive of Autism Speaks, and Karen Margulis London, co-founder of the National Alliance For Autism Research. The charity was set up to provide funding for scientists and organizations conducting autism research and works to raise awareness of autism spectrum disorders to the general public. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Autism Science Foundation holds the Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and an 85% encompass rating for finance and accountability from Charity Navigator

“Supporting scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, and publicizing autism research.”

Autism Science Foundation

What they do: The Autism Science Foundation provides grants for research focusing on discovering the genetic mechanisms that trigger autism, as well as research studies surrounding early intervention and diagnosis methods for people with autism. The charity also acts as an online information resource for families impacted by autism and provides access to autism toolkits designed to assist people with autism overcome challenges in their daily lives.

What they’ve achieved: To date, the Autism Science Foundation has funded just under $3 million to autism research. In 2020, the charity partnered with Autism Navigator to launch a virtual video-based community to teach families intervention strategies to deal with the challenging behaviors exhibited by children with autism. In 2019, they supported the launch of the National Council for Severe Autism and produced 50 award-winning science podcasts on autism that were downloaded 87,000 times

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Autism Science Foundation through their website. You can also attend one of their many annual events to raise funds and awareness of autism spectrum disorders, or sign up to participate in a research study 

Asperger/Autism Network: Empowering Individuals. Building Community

The Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) was founded in 1996 by a small group of parents and professionals shortly after the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome was first recognized. Originally known as the Asperger’s Association of New England, The Asperger/Autism Network provides multiple valuable resources and support groups for people with autism. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Asperger/Autism Network holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. The charity also has a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“To work with individuals, families, and professionals to help people with Asperger profiles build meaningful, connected lives.”

Asperger/Autism Network

What they do: The Asperger/Autism Network offers a range of programs and services for individuals and families impacted by autism or Asperger Syndrome, including an interview preparation program, adult and teen support groups, and their LifeNet Independent Living Program. The charity also has a comprehensive online database of Asperger/autism diagnosticians and offers training programs for professionals working with clients who have autism.

What they’ve achieved: The Asperger/Autism Network now consists of over 45,000 individuals and families across 50 states and 51 countries around the world. The charity staff respond to more than 275 calls and emails from families with members on the autism spectrum and professionals seeking information on training programs and resources. In 2019, they ran over 50 regular support groups for individuals on the autism spectrum. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Asperger/Autism Network through their website. You can also volunteer for the charity or set up a fundraising event to raise money and awareness.

STAR Institute: Sensory Health And Wellness

The STAR Institute was founded in 2016 as a merger between the STAR Center and the SPD Foundation set up by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. In 1979, Dr. Miller developed and nationalized the Miller Assessment for Preschoolers (MAP) to assess preschool children with developmental disorders including autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. Today, the charity supports and treats children with sensory disorders, including autism, through their treatment center, and contributes to groundbreaking research through their research facility.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The STAR Institute holds the Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. According to their financial report, the charity spent 86.4% of its income on treatment and education programs, and 3.3% on fundraising. 

“To impact quality of life by developing best practices for sensory health and wellness through treatment, education, and research.”

STAR Institute

What they do: The STAR Institute provides assessments and individualized treatments at their treatment center in Denver, for children suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder, autism, ADHD, and OCD among others. They also provide an extensive array of online courses for professionals working with children suffering from sensory disorders, and offer research mentorship programs for scientists working in the field of sensory integration. The charity also conducts their own research at their research facility.

What they’ve achieved: To date, 12,750 families and professionals have attended educational events run by the STAR Institute. In 2019, they supported and treated 742 clients at their treatment center and certified over 40 new professionals across the US, through their STAR Proficiency Certification program. Due to the expansion of their global reach, the charity now treats families from over 38 countries and 49 states. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the STAR Institute through their website. Alternatively, you can volunteer for the charity or support the charity financially by buying or selling items through Ebay For Charity.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for autism. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing the progress a charity makes in reaching its targets, the chances are not making positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is just up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to autism – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,



PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

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