About Us

Friends of Autism is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2000 by John and Karen Sauer, parents of a child with autism, and friends who passionately believe people with autism deserve to be a public health priority. That is why we are called "Friends" of Autism.  Friends of Autism's IRS form 990 is available on request.

We are committed to autism research, awareness, education and direct support for families facing the challenges of autism.

Friends of Autism is unique among organizations in the autism community because it is a grass-roots, volunteer-driven organization consisting of those who know autism best: families, educators, and healthcare providers. That means we are in an extraordinary position to identify gaps in current autism treatment and education services and to take the initiative to raise funds to fill those gaps. Because we have very little overhead, nearly every penny we raise is used to benefit individuals with autism.


As Wisconsin’s largest source of private/non-profit autism research funds, Friends of Autism has contributed more than $300,000 to research. We are proud to have partnered with the following groups to further our mission of increased autism research.

Autism Project of the University of Wisconsin--Eau Claire
Autism Society of America
UC Davis MIND Institute
Cure Autism Now
International Child Development Research Center
National Alliance for Autism Research
Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin


For families struggling with autism on a daily basis, the cost and effort of staying current with the many autism treatment options is often daunting.  Friends of Autism recognizes this challenge and has responded by underwriting the cost of bringing internationally renowned experts in the field of autism directly to Wisconsin to provide parents, educators, and healthcare professionals with the tools they need to help individuals with autism succeed.  We are very proud to offer these forums because we believe that we are not only educating the individuals who attend but also helping the many people they will work with for years to come.

Anyone who is new to the world of autism or would like to learn more about Friends of Autism should listen to this interview with WMYX radio producer Tony Lorino and Friends of Autism volunteer Liz Jones.


Studies have shown that early intensive intervention is directly correlated with positive outcomes in children with autism.  The sooner a child begins intensive therapy, the better the chances that child will lead a productive life.  Without intervention, the future for a child with autism remains bleak.

In an effort to support early detection and intervention and to further its mission of education and family support, Friends of Autism distributes “Autism Red Flags” brochures free of charge to families, healthcare providers, day care centers, churches, and schools across the country.  These brochures provide basic information on autism, early warning signs, and recommendations on how families can access the proper diagnosis and early intervention for their children.

Click for Brochure »


All sponsorships and monies raised go to directly to Friends of Autism a non profit 501 (c) 3 that has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to autism research, education and awareness, and direct grants.

We are a volunteer-driven organization so 100% of the net proceeds will directly benefit Wisconsin children and adults with autism through Friends of Autism.

 Family Grant
Through the Family Grant Program, Friends of Autism makes grants directly to families in need. Family Grants pay for therapy and medical testing not covered by insurance. Grants also pay for communication technologies and educational supports not provided by local school districts. The Friends of Autism Family Grant Program helps alleviate some of these costs so parents can concentrate on helping their child. Representative grants include attendance at conferences, social skills classes, safety equipment, and equipment for addressing sensory needs of autistic children.

Autism Awareness and Education
Friends of Autism is committed to bringing nationally recognized speakers to Wisconsin for seminars and conferences at little or no expense to the parents, educators, and therapists who attend. Nationally known experts include Chantal Sicile-Kira, Dr. Vincent Carbone, Dennis Debbaudt, and Carol Gray. Friends has also sponsored social clubs to raise awareness and support students with autism at UW Stevens Point and Fox Valley Technical College.

Autism Research
Friends of Autism has provided substantial support for state and national autism research initiatives. Friends of Autism has continued its support for critical research projects at the internationally recognized University of Wisconsin Waisman Center and the MIND Institute. These institutions are continuing very promising multidisciplinary research into the causes of and treatments for autism, bringing us closer to accomplishing our mission to solve the mysteries of autism.

Autism Community Support
Friends of Autism recognizes the need for individuals on the autism spectrum to meet and interact with their peers as well as the needs for the autism community in general. Friends supports programs in education, socialization, and recreation for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families through a variety of venues, including schools, sports leagues, and other nonprofit organizations dedicated to the autism community. Representative programs include Bridge-the-Gap for Autism, Miracle League, Lutheran Special School, Wisconsibs, and Top Soccer.