Press Release

Autism Speaks and Ad Council Continue Award-Winning Campaign with New PSAs Encouraging African American and Hispanic Parents to “Learn the Signs”

Since campaign launch, percentage of parents of young children who have spoken with their doctor about autism has increased by over 60%, yet minority children continue to receive diagnosis at later ages

NEW YORK, N.Y. May 21, 2013 — Extending its award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign, Autism Speaks – the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization – today joined the Ad Council, along with partner agencies BBDONew York and LatinWorks, to announce the launch of a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) designed to reach African American and Hispanic parents. According to research, children in these communities are often diagnosed later than the average. The PSAs, which are being distributed to media outlets nationwide this week, show some of the early signs of autism and encourage parents to take immediate action if their child is not meeting standard developmental milestones.

Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disorder in the U.S., with 1 in 88 children diagnosed, 1 in 54 boys, representing a 78 percent increase in six years. Further, a recent survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 50 school-aged children was on the autism spectrum, suggesting that we may be underestimating the true prevalence.

Autism Speaks has also kicked off the Early Access to Care initiative, focused on reducing the average age of autism diagnosis and increasing access to screening and evidence-based early intervention services.

According to the CDC, the average age of diagnosis is 4-5 years, but a reliable autism diagnosis can be made as early as 18-24 months. While early detection is critical, research shows that many parents have very little knowledge about autism and its symptoms. The current age of diagnosis among low income families, as well as African Americans and Hispanics, is higher than the general public. With appropriate early intervention services from ages 3-5, between 20 percent and 50 percent of children diagnosed with autism will be able to attend mainstream kindergarten.

The new “Maybe” PSAs, created pro bono by Autism Speaks’ award-winning lead creative agency BBDO and LatinWorks, depict parents observing the unusual behavior or non-reaction of their child in seemingly ordinary situations. A child’s lack of eye contact, babbling or big smiles invite parental worry and speculation: “maybe it’s this” or “maybe it’s that.” Showing the subtle presence of potential problems in otherwise everyday instances, the PSAs emphasize that these “maybes” are reasons enough for parents to consult their pediatrician or primary care provider for further screening. The PSAs encourage parents to seek further information about the early signs of autism and additional screening resources at The ads have been developed in English and Spanish for television, radio, print, outdoor and digital media.

“We know we can diagnose children sooner, and the earlier the diagnosis occurs, the faster a child can start receiving intervention, resulting in better outcomes,” said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. “While we have seen a great increase in awareness thanks to our partnership with the Ad Council, many parents still don’t know what red flags to look for in their children’s behavior and development. If a parent has a concern, they should not wait – they should talk to a pediatrician immediately.”

Autism Speaks’ Early Access to Care initiative focuses on reaching out to underserved communities, utilizing new and existing technologies, leveraging local community resources, engaging federal and state partners, using parents and para-professionals as dissemination channels and training providers of screening, diagnosis and intervention techniques. The program includes new website information and resources, screening events with volunteer clinicians, coordinated activities with federal and regional partners, training opportunities for professionals and the distribution of research findings, tools and resources.

Since the launch of the “Learn the Signs” campaign in 2006, the percentage of parents of young children who have spoken with their doctor about autism has increased by more than 60 percent (from 8 to 13 percent) and the number of parents who say autism is very or somewhat common among young children has increased from 45 to 65 percent.

“In the last seven years, our campaign with Autism Speaks has had an extraordinary impact in raising awareness about the early warning signs of autism and encouraging parents to speak to their doctors about it,” said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO, The Ad Council. “These new ads feature realistic situations that parents will identify with, and I believe they will help more minority parents speak to their doctors if they see the signs and get their children the intervention they need.”

The Ad Council is distributing the new PSAs to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide. The ads will air and run in advertising time and space entirely donated by the media. Since the launch of the campaign, media outlets have donated nearly $376 million in time and space for the ads. The PSAs have also earned numerous awards, including an Effie Award for advertising effectiveness in 2008, a Silver Telly in 2009, a Silver Addy and Gold Ogilvy in 2011.

In conjunction with the launch of the campaign, Autism Speaks is also educating through text message. People are encouraged to learn the signs of autism by answering six simple questions via text message. Users can text MAYBE to 30644 to begin or in Spanish, text QUIZAS to 30644. Standard message and data rates may apply.

About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 78 percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It 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. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBCand NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $195 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships and related activities in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit

About the Ad Council
The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a rich history of marshalling volunteer talent from the advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. Having produced literally thousands of PSA campaigns addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, the Ad Council has affected, and continues to affect, tremendous positive change by raising awareness, inspiring action and saving lives. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or view our PSAs on YouTube.

About BBDO
BBDO’s mantra is “The Work. The Work. The Work.” Every day, BBDO people in 289 offices in 81 countries work day by day, job by job and client by client to create and deliver the world’s most compelling commercial content. For seven years in a row,BBDO has been the most creative agency network in the world in The Gunn Report and for the past six years, BBDO has also been ranked the most awarded agency network across all marketing communications in The Directory Big Won. In addition, BBDO has been named Network of the Year at Cannes five times and was named the world’s most Effective Agency Network in the inaugural Effie Effectiveness Index. BBDO has been chosen Agency of the Year multiple times by the leading industry trade publications.

About LatinWorks
Based in Austin, Texas, LatinWorks is the premier cultural branding agency at the forefront of the evolving consumer marketplace. A certified minority enterprise and member of the Omnicom DAS Global network, LatinWorks brings forth a fresh and progressive vision for a multicultural America that has made them one of the most in-demand and awarded creative agencies in the country. Their mission is to lead brands as Chief Culture Officer; with a relentless focus on consumers, they live to anticipate cultural shifts and help brands to successfully navigate the ever-changing transcultural landscape. In addition to several wins at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, LatinWorks was recently named one of the top 10 agencies in the country byAdvertising Age magazine as well as the 2013 Multicultural Agency of the Year. For more information, visit

BBDO and LatinWorks are part of Omnicom Group, Inc., a leading global marketing and corporate communications company.


Ellyn Fisher
Ad Council
[email protected]

Adam Pockriss
Rubenstein Communications
(212) 843-8286
[email protected]

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