Judith Ursitti and Amy Ursitti to Receive 2023 Caryn Schwartzman Spirit Award

 Feb. 15, 2023 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, has announced that Judith Ursitti and her daughter Amy Ursitti will receive this year’s Caryn Schwartzman Spirit Awards. The award recognizes outstanding advocacy by family members of a person with autism.

The awards will be presented at ASF’s tenth annual “Day of Learning” event on Thursday, March 30. This year’s event will be hybrid, allowing people to attend in person at the New York Athletic Club, or virtually from across the globe.

Judith is the co-founder of the Profound Autism Alliance, a nonprofit focusing on inclusive research and collaborative, targeted advocacy for people with profound autism. She is also currently Vice President of Government Affairs for the Council of Autism Service Providers and for 13 years served as Director of State Advocacy at Autism Speaks. Prior to that, she served as a volunteer at Cure Autism Now and Autism Speaks. A CPA by training, she became immersed in autism advocacy when her son, Jack, was diagnosed at age 2. Since his diagnosis, she has worked on the passage, implementation, and enforcement of autism-related legislation nationwide on the state and federal levels.

“When there’s a legislative issue that needs attention, Judith is always there! She has worn out dozens of pairs of shoes lobbying the halls of the US Congress as well as every state house in the country, fighting for more money for autism research and advocating for insurance coverage for ABA therapy”, said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. “Her heroic efforts have dramatically improved the lives of people with autism, and their families.”

From the time she was a little girl, Amy Ursitti was a staunch advocate for her brother Jack. As a six year old, Amy staffed information booths at autism walks and sold lemonade in her community to raise money for autism research. In 2022, Amy graduated from Emory University with degrees in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and Classics, where she conducted autism research focused on autism and pain at the Emory Psychophysics and Imaging Neuroscience Lab in collaboration with the Emory Autism Center. Amy also served as President of the Emory Best Buddies Chapter. She currently works as a clinical research assistant at Mass General Hospital’s Neuroimaging of Mind-Body Interaction and Treatment Laboratory, where she is investigating the interaction of the brain and body. Her research continues to include people with ASD. She is a co-founder of the Profound Autism Alliance. She is also a panel member of the Sam’s Sibs Stick Together group, which offers advice and support to siblings of autistic individuals. Amy is also currently training to run her first Boston Marathon to raise funds for her brother’s school, Nashoba Learning Group, which serves students with profound autism. She plans to pursue a degree in medicine, hoping to continue her research and support for people with autism.

“Amy is an inspiration to siblings everywhere, generously sharing her energy and expertise to support families and scientists” said ASF Chief Science Officer Dr. Alycia Halladay, who also oversees the Sam’s Sibs Stick Together project.  “She represents the best that our next generation of autism researchers has to offer.”

The Caryn Schwartzman Spirit Award is presented annually to family advocates whose energy and commitment to enhancing the lives of individuals with autism best emulate Caryn’s. Caryn was a loving and dedicated mom and a tireless advocate who worked with the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR), Autism Speaks and the Autism Science Foundation to raise money, advance autism research and improve the lives of children around the country.

The Caryn Schwartzman Spirit Award will be presented by Caryn’s daughter Allyson Schwartzman Hoffman. The Day of Learning will feature TED-style talks by the nation’s top autism experts. In honor of the event’s tenth anniversary, morning presenters will look back ten years at autism science’s most important accomplishments, and ahead ten years at critical research goals for the next decade. The afternoon talks will focus on anxiety, gastrointestinal issues and the autism ketamine trials, and will conclude with a presentation from an autistic researcher studying autism.

Register for this year’s Day of Learning here.