Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism National Town Meeting

Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism
Health Care, National Policy
Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Chapel Hill, Cleveland, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Kansas City, Long Beach, Long Island, Miami, Newark, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C.
November 2009

AmericaSpeaks coordinated 16 cities across the country in 2009 for a 21st Century Town Meeting®. More than 1,000 people from 33 cities participated in Advancing the Future of Adults with Autism National Town Meeting (AFAA). Three hundred of the participants were at the central site in Chicago, another 700 people participated at 15 additional satellite sites, and more than 50 people participated at virtual tables hailing from 17 additional cities.

The AFAA National Town Meeting was convened by a diverse consortium of national advocacy organizations concerned about better serving the needs of adults with autism. Families living with autism, adults with autism, advocates, elected officials, service providers, and other community members shared their perspectives in facilitated table discussions and through keypad polling via satellite links across the 16 cities and remotely through virtual tables.

The participants discussed and rated strategies for addressing policy issues such as, housing, employment, and community life. They then prioritized the top strategies within each of the three topic areas. The event was orchestrated from the central site in Chicago and webcast live to satellite sites in 15 additional cities and the virtual tables – allowing for simultaneous participation from around the country. Virtual tables gave those who couldn’t attend in person the ability to participate from their home computer. They were able to view the live webcast from Chicago, participate in online chats, use the keypads for polling and participated in virtual small group facilitated table discussion.

The National Town Meeting was the second phase of a three phase project. The first phase – a think tank for leading academics and practitioners in the field – took place in January 2009. The third phase – an Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism meeting with Members of Congress, will take place in 2010. This effort will specifically target Congress’ Autism Caucus to help advance the priorities that came out of National Town Hall.

AFAA Town Hall participants discussed plans for staying engaged in their communities and made commitments to advancing the futures of adults living with autism.  Autism efforts have been fragmented across the country, but this Town Hall allowed stakeholders to come together not just for the day but to connect organizations and individuals in networks to continue work as a coalition.


This town meeting created a national consortium and a policy agenda to advance the futures of adults with autism. On July 15th, 2010, AFAA hosted a Congressional briefing in Washington, DC to discuss priorities for action in the public and private sectors.