Meet the Funder Giving for Autism Research on Campuses

According to Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism, the country may soon be facing an "autism tsunami." Here's why.

First off, the Centers for Disease Control says that one in every 68 children has autism. These children, naturally, will soon become adults and will require ongoing care. What's more, while sources cite that roughly 80 percent of those individuals with autism are under the age of 22, a segment of the adult population may not receive a proper diagnosis until later in life, further swelling the ranks.

Enter the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation (DJFF), the nation's first not-for-profit organization to focus exclusively on adult autism. Founded in 2002 by Linda J. Walder, a pioneer in the adult autism arena, the Charleston, South Carolina-based organization develops, funds and advocates for programs and public policy related to all aspects of adult life such as job training, residential living, the arts, recreation, health and wellness, and socialization. 

The foundation is particularly keen on funding endowments with the nation's leading researchers and practitioners at renowned universities to advance the creation of new research and model programs to expand opportunities for the diversely challenged population of autistic adults.

These Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Adult Autism Endowment Funds were launched in 2014, with a $100,000 gift to Yale University Medical School to establish the nation's first-ever research fund specifically dedicated to study adult autism. This gift was followed by another $100,000 in 2015 to establish a new endowment fund at the University of Miami's Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD).

And now comes word of two more $100,000 endowment gifts—to Brown University and Rutgers—to further expand the foundation's mission for a global focus on adult autism. These two gifts fit the same mold of those to Yale and Miami. Designed to increase awareness, opportunities and knowledge about aging and autism, each of the four DJFF endowed programs serve a specific area relating to adult autism: research, program development, fostering creativity and expression through the arts, and counseling and resources for family members of adults on the spectrum.

Of course, as previously noted, the foundation's support extends beyond endowments. For example, in September, the foundation established the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Adult Autism Theater and Performing Arts Fund at Brown University. The Fund will support programs, education, and performance experiences at The Brown University Theater Arts and Performance Studies Program that benefit young adults and adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In related news, check out our recent take on another big player in the autism funding space, the Autism Science Foundation, and most pressing grantmaking priorities.