Autism was virtually unknown to the general public until the 1960’s despite being identified as early at the 1940’s. Parents and professionals had little information. One of the first autism moms, Ruth Sullivan, was mother to 4-year-old Joseph. She was very much like the parents of children with autism today: desperately searching for answers, desperately wanting to help her son. In her research, she came across Dr. Bernard Rimland (also the parent of a child with autism) who published the landmark book Infantile Autism. This was the first work that recognized the physiological and neurobiological factors in autism. Dr. Rimland, at great risk to his own career, had defied prevailing theories of the day that mothers caused autism. He received letters from parents that were “filled with anguish and a sense of despair,” he wrote. Ruth and Dr. Rimland decided to meet with other people who had been touched by autism to discuss common experiences.
In 1965, Ruth brough Dr Rimland out to talk with other parents on the East Coast. About 60 parents gathered in a home in home in Teaneck, N.J. looking for answers. Most had spent years and a small fortune obtaining a diagnosis, only to learn that no further help was available. Most communities had no facilities for the care or education of children with autism. The group realized more than ever the need to have a national organization that would work to seek education and care for people with autism, one that would work for adequate legislation, research and publicity for their unique challenges. The Autism Society (then called the National Society for Autistic Children) was born.
The goal of this organization was to seek education, care, and cure for these children and work for adequate legislation, research and publicity for their unique problem. This organization created a national entity and local chapters to meet the needs of their communities on a grassroots level. The original local chapters included Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Clara and Orange County. In 1969, NSAC changed its name to the Autism Society of America to emphasize that children with autism grow up. Through the years, the Autism Society of America has grown to all 50 states. The mission and goals have not changed from the original, founding vision.
Our local organization is one of the many affiliates in the Autism Society of America. Our local chapter was founded in 1986 by Leah Devulder, a divorced mom with a newly diagnosed son. After attending the closest conference she could find on autism, in Long Beach, she was convinced that she needed to help the parents in her area. She formed the Desert Communities Chapter of the Autism Society of America which included all of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. She formed the chapter with 9 people and her dog as the original 10 members. In 1987, the name was changed to the Autism Society of America – Inland Empire Chapter, and changed again in 2009 to the Autism Society Inland Empire, Inc.
Our affiliate is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization which continues to be an all-volunteer, grassroots, organization. We serve as the voice and resource of the Inland Empire. We serve individuals with ASD, parents, relatives, friends, advocates, educators and other professionals throughout the Inland Empire.