THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON ALUMNI MAGAZINE
Record Gift Launches New Autism Center
In what UW officials believe is the largest private gift ever made to the University for a specific disorder, Richard and Susan Fade have donated $5 million to the Center on Human Development and Disability to endow a new center for the treatment of autism. Making the gift even more remarkable is a matching grant of $5 million from an anonymous funding source, for a total of $10 million.
The Fades have a family member with autism, a disorder characterized by communication problems, impaired ability for social interaction and a limited range of interests.
"Autism is more common than childhood deafness or cancer and is growing," says Richard Fade, a Microsoft executive. "With this endowment we hope to create a center of excellence that will enable the Center for Human Development and Disability to increase its focus on delivering services to children with autism and their families, to provide increased opportunities for training of professionals and to raise awareness of this disorder from various disciplines in the general community."
UW Psychology Professor Geraldine Dawson, director of the autism center, is a nationally recognized expert in autism research and treatment. Dawson directs a multidisciplinary research program, centered at the UW and funded by the National Institutes of Health, aimed at improving early detection and treatment of autism and understanding its cause. The endowment will allow Dawson and her staff to expand their local and national outreach program, so that health care providers can begin to identify children with autism at younger ages.
"The response to early intervention can be dramatic, but children are often not diagnosed early enough and there are not enough services available," says Dawson. "Our goals are to provide intensive early intervention and to build greater capacity for treatment, both at the center and in the community."
Autism results from brain abnormalities and typically manifests itself during the first three years of life. More than half a million people in the U.S. have autism or a related disorder, making it one of the most common developmental disabilities.
The Fades' $5 million contribution and the $5 million match grant were two of many large private donations that led the UW to a record-breaking fund-raising year. In total, nearly 60,000 individuals and 4,800 organizations contributed $225 million in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, surpassing the previous year's record of $211 million.