Autism Research Institute

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Autism Research Institute
Non-profit 501(c)3[1]
Founded 1967[2]
Founder Bernard Rimland[3]
Headquarters San Diego, CA[1], United States[1]
Key people
Stephen M. Edelson, Director[4]
Services Online education, phone support, research grants, Autistic Global Initiative
Revenue $1,754,803 (2012)[5]

The Autism Research Institute (ARI) is a San Diego-based non-profit organization that promotes alternative treatments for autism. It conducts or sponsors autism research, networking and education programs for patients and doctors. It also provides resources such as the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC), which evaluates changes over time in autism-related symptoms.

ARI was founded in 1967 by Bernard Rimland. ARI created the Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) program in 1995. DAN! promoted the now discredited belief that vaccines were a cause of autism and that it could be treated by removing heavy metals from the body; views that were not accepted by the medical field, but popular among many patients. In light of new research, the organization changed its views in the early 2000s and discontinued DAN! activities. It now focuses on nutrition and reducing exposures to toxins.


The Autism Research Institute (ARI) was founded in 1967 by Bernard Rimland originally under the name Child Behavior Research Institute (CBRI).[2] Rimland founded the organization in order to promote alternative treatments to autism, especially megavitamin therapies that he witnessed hospitals experiment with as a treatment for schizophrenia.[2] According to ARI, it also studied and published information on behavioral therapy in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.[6] ARI began publishing a quarterly newsletter, the Autism Research Review International (ARRI), in 1987.[2]

In 1995 the controversial[7] Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) program was founded as a part of ARI.[2] DAN! advocated for alternative treatments for autism and maintained a registry of doctors that were trained by the program to perform them.[8] DAN! was one of the more prominent advocates for the now medically discredited belief that vaccines may be a cause of autism.[2] Its "highest rated" autism treatment was chelation therapy, which involves removing heavy metals from the body.[8] Its chelation treatment was not supported by mainstream doctors.[9] Doctors told the Chicago Tribune the treatments were dangerous and that misleading tests were used to show that those with autism had a high rate of heavy metals.[8] According to the Chicago Tribune, metals occur naturally in the body and very little is known about what a normal range is.[8] As of 2009, three-fourths of families with a child diagnosed with autism will try an alternative treatment like those that were prescribed by DAN!.[8]

The institute's founder, Bernard Rimland, died in November 2006[3] and was succeeded by Steven M. Edelson.[7] ARI's new director said in 2011 that the organization's views on autism treatments had changed.[7] The DAN! program and doctor registry was discontinued in January 2011,[10] which was followed by the disbanding of the DAN! conference in 2012.[11][12] It now focuses heavily on nutrition and reducing a child's exposure to toxins.[7]

Current activities and services[edit]

The Autism Research Institute developed the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC), a 77-item questionnaire intended to be completed six to ten times over two to three months to measure autism treatment progress.[13] A study in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research published in 2011 found that there was a strong correlation between autism symptoms and a patient's ATEC score.[14] ARI publishes books and newsletters, hosts conferences, networking groups and online discussion forums related to autism treatment.[6] It also conducts research and sponsors studies by others through grants.[6]


The institute is funded primarily from donations. 90 percent of the funding raised is spent on programs related to its mission.[5] The remaining 10 percent is spent on fundraising and administration.[5] Charity Navigator gave the organization four out of four stars for financial performance, accountability and transparency.[5]


  1. ^ a b c About Our Work, Autism Research Institute, retrieved August 5, 2014 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Eyal, Gil; Hart, Brendan; Onculer, Emine; Oren, Neta; et al. (2010). The Autism Matrix. Polity. pp. 237–238. ISBN 9780745643991. 
  3. ^ a b Carey, Benedict (November 28, 2006). "Bernard Rimland, 78, Scientist Who Revised View of Autism, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  4. ^ About ARI: ARI Staff, Autism Research Institute, retrieved August 5, 2014 
  5. ^ a b c d "Charity Navigator Rating - Autism Research Institute". Charity Navigator. Retrieved May 10, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "The Expanding Mission of ARI". Autism Research Institute. Retrieved August 5, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d Rudy, Lisa Jo (November 4, 2011). "Biomedical treatments for autism from the Autism Research Institute". Retrieved August 5, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Tsouderos, Trine; Callahan, Patricia (November 22, 2009). "Risky alternative therapies for autism have little basis in science". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  9. ^ Brownstein, Joseph (March 9, 2010). "Father sues doctors over 'fraudulent' autism therapy". ABC News. 
  10. ^ Rudy, Lisa Jo (September 2, 2011), DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) Is No More, 
  11. ^ "Disbanding the ARI Conference". Autism Research Institute. 
  12. ^ Dominus, Susan (April 20, 2011). "The crash and burn of an autism guru". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2014. He [ Andrew Wakefield ] no longer speaks at the popular Autism Research Institute conference 
  13. ^ Len Sperry (May 4, 2012). Family Assessment: Contemporary and Cutting-Edge Strategies. Routledge. p. 364. ISBN 978-1-136-70665-3. 
  14. ^ Magiati, I.; Moss, J.; Yates, R.; Charman, T.; Howlin, P. (2011). "Is the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist a useful tool for monitoring progress in children with autism spectrum disorders?" (PDF). Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 55 (3): 302–312. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01359.x. ISSN 0964-2633. PMID 21199043.