Autistica appoints first openly autistic CEO of major charity

Autism research charity, Autistica, has appointed Dr James Cusack as its new CEO.

Cusack, who has been the charity's director of science since 2015, will be the first openly autistic CEO to head up a major national charity.

He will replace Jon Spiers, who is stepping down after five years at the helm.

Autistic said Cusack has been “at the heart of Autistica’s growth and impact, including devising and overseeing the national autism research network Discover; identifying, supporting and funding high-impact scientific studies; making the charity a global leader in authentic community involvement; and making premature mortality in autism a priority for governments around the world”.

Commenting on his appointment, Cusack said the pandemic has highlighted that autistic people "don't get the same access to rights that most people take for granted".

"To overcome the unacceptable inequalities that autistic people face, we must ensure we listen to the experiences of all autistic people and deliver transformative change based on the best evidence," he said.

"I also hope we can raise the visibility of autistic people as leaders and changemakers. Harnessing the power of different ways of thinking and seeing the world is critical for the charity sector and wider society.”

The charity's chair of trustees, Gill Ackers said Cusack was appointed to the role following a "thorough search process".

"We’re grateful to Jon [Spiers] for all he’s done to improve the lives of autistic people, including leading a successful campaign for autism to be recognised as one of the top priorities for the NHS and to put research at the heart of the national autism strategy.”

Spiers added: “Having worked alongside James for five fantastic years, I’m thrilled that he will be leading Autistica so we can do even more to ensure autistic people live longer, happier, healthier lives.

"It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with James and all of our dedicated and passionate staff, trustees and supporters. I will look back with a great deal of pride at all we’ve achieved together and look forward to watching the charity go even further to help the people we serve.”

Cusack will take up the role on 7 August 2020.

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