History

Established in 1997 by two mothers of children with autism and their developmental pediatrician, SARRC is now an internationally recognized nonprofit with a mission to advance research and provide a lifetime of support for individuals with autism and their families. As the state of Arizona’s largest nonprofit serving the autism community, SARRC conducts innovative research, provides evidence-based practices, disseminates effective training, and builds inclusive communities.

1997 

  • Southwest Autism Research Center (SARC) is founded.

1998 

  • Open our first 1,800 square-foot facility at 10th Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix.
  • Inaugural Community Breakfast is held.

1999  

2000  

  • The first issue Outreach Magazine is published.  
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 150 8-year-old children have ASD.

2001 

  • SARC families participate in historic study in collaboration with Libera Universita Campus BioMedico in Rome.

2002  

  • SARC changes its name to Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). 
  • SARRC introduces JumpStart , a program empowering parents with the skills and knowledge to help navigate their new journey.
  • FRIEND (Fostering Relationships in Early Network Development) is implemented by SARRC in Arizona elementary schools to help students understand and accept differences among their peers.
  • SARRC Grandparents Group is established to help educate, empower, and support grandparents of children with autism.

2003 

  • SARRC and Translational Genomics Research Institute partner to conduct Arizona’s largest and most comprehensive molecular and genetics research done on autism. 
  • The Physician Outreach program launches and work begins to develop the Autism Spectrum Disorders Screening kit for pediatricians.

2004 

  • The first capital campaign is launched and raises $7.5 million for a new building.
  • SARRC partners with the international Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE), the largest private, open-access repository of clinical and genetic information dedicated to helping autism research.

2005 

  • As a result of the 2004 capital campaign, SARRC’s Campus for Exceptional Children in Phoenix opens. 
  • Bob Wright, a top executive, and his wife, Suzanne, form Autism Speaks, now the world’s largest autism advocacy group.

2006 

  • The SARRC Community School opens its doors, a milestone to create a more inclusive community.  
  • Walk Now Arizona with Cure Autism Now launches and hosts the first walk boasting 3,500 participants.
  • The CDC estimates that 1 in 110 8-year-old children have ASD.

2007 

  • SARRC hires first national autism experts with doctoral degrees to expand and enhance services. 
  • Arizona Autism Coalition is formed to improve the lives of individuals with ASD and their families by sharing resources and affecting autism systems reform through statewide collaboration and advocacy.

2008 

  • SARRC supports the passing of Steven’s Law, requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for autism treatment.
  • SARRC’s CommunityWorks® program is introduced to provide afterschool and weekend opportunities for teens with ASD and their typically developing peer mentors.
  • GardenWorks® and CulinaryWorks® launch, marking SARRC’s first venture into social enterprise (now Beneficial Beans®).
  • First World Autism Awareness Day held on April 2.
  • ThinkAsperger’s launches a screening questionnaire for parents, educators and medical professionals to aid in the identification of ASD.

2009 

  • The Vocational & Life Skills Academy opens, allowing SARRC to expand its services for adolescents and adults.
  • Employment Services program is introduced for teens and adults with autism.  

2010

  • SARRC launches its social enterprise program, Beneficial Beans®, a proprietary coffee business to provide training and employment opportunities for adults with autism.

2011 

  • “Combating Autism Reauthorization Act,” enacted in 2006, is reauthorized by President Barack Obama to ensure continual autism research, services, training and monitoring. 

2012

  • The first Beneficial Beans Café opens inside the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. 
  • SARRC’s sister organization, First Place, is founded. 
  • National statistics report that 1 in 68 children are affected by autism.

2013 

  • The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) newly identifies autism as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) folding all subcategories of the condition into one umbrella diagnosis — ASD. Asperger's is no longer considered a separate condition. 

2014 

  • SARRC collaborates with First Place and the Foundation for Senior Living to launch the First Place Transition Academy, operated by SARRC. 
  • SARRC’s CommunityWorks program is replicated in Canada.
  • Combating Autism Reauthorization Act is renewed for another five years as the “Autism CARES Act.”

2015 

  • SARRC, in partnership with Behavior Imaging and Georgia Tech, help launch Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment (NODA), a clinically tested service using a smartphone app and autism specialists to diagnose or rule out autism. 
  • SARRC’s Detecting Asperger’s Very Early (DAVE) screening questionnaire is published in the Journal of Applied School Psychology.

2016 

  • SARRC’s second Community School in Tempe opens. 
  • SARRC named a “pocket of excellence” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker in their book, “In a Different Key.” 
  • Phoenix named “the most autism-friendly city in the world” by “PBS NewsHour.”

2017 

  • SARRC celebrates 20 years. 
  • The second Beneficial Beans Café at the Phoenix Burton Barr Central Library opens. 
  • March 3 proclaimed “SARRC’s Social Enterprise Day” by the Office of the Governor of Arizona.

2018

  • The CDC reports 1 in 59 children have been identified as having autism in the U.S., which represents a 15 percent increase from previous estimates. 

2019

  • SARRC unveils its new strategic plan to become a statewide organization by 2030.
  • A SARRC-led study funded by the national institute of mental health lowers ASD diagnosis three years earlier than age reported by the CDC

2020