Suzanne Wright remembered as the ‘passion’ of Autism Speaks

Suzanne and Bob Wright, the founders of Autism Speaks, with Paul Morris, right, watch the Empire State Building light up in blue on World Autism Day in 2013.

Suzanne and Bob Wright, the founders of Autism Speaks, with Paul Morris, right, watch the Empire State Building light up in blue on World Autism Day in 2013.

A woman who made a huge difference in giving a voice to families dealing with autism has died. Suzanne Wright, 69, of Fairfield, died at her home on July 1, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Wright, and her husband, Bob, were the co-founders of Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization.

Robin Morris of Weston, whose son Paul, 28, has autism, remembers Wright with great admiration. “This is a great loss. Suzanne was a powerhouse. She had a great strength and interest in helping others. She was a good woman,” Morris said.

The Wrights founded Autism Speaks after their grandson, Christian, was diagnosed with autism when he was 2½ years old. Autism is a complex disorder of brain development, categorized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.

Morris recalled that initially there were several splinter groups dealing with autism and Wright worked hard to galvanize them under one umbrella to give autism advocates a stronger voice. “Suzanne was and always will be the passion of Autism Speaks,” Morris said. “She didn’t have to do this. She could have just helped her grandchild, but she decided to tackle this for the world.”

Morris joined with Wright at the beginning stages of Autism Speaks. At the time, little was known about treatment options. Morris’s son Paul was a nonverbal child and couldn’t easily  communicate. “There’s still a lot to be learned about autism. It’s a puzzle that needs to be solved,” Morris said.

Morris worked hard to make sure Paul got as many therapies and services that he could. Finally, at age five, Paul said his first words. He had to be taught how to speak, how to listen and how to think.

Paul has made much progress over the years, and in 2015 was the keynote speaker at the Autism Speaks National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. He was also asked to be part of a public service Youtube campaign to promote autism awareness.

Morris now meets with other parents and offers support and advice on how to deal with autistic children. “My key piece of advice is DO NOT delay services! Slam the child with as many services as possible and hope something sticks,” she said.

Morris said her family will be forever changed by Suzanne Wright’s tenacious spirit. ”She spoke for my mother and all of the Nanas whose passion for their grandchild knew no bounds. May her memory be for a blessing,” Morris said.

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