Expanding Resources and Opportunities for the Autism Community

April 2023

By Amanda Lukof, Special Needs Advocate


When my brother, Liam, was diagnosed with autism in 1999, roughly 1 in 500 people was affected by the disorder. Last month, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a staggering 1 in 36 people has autism. That is an incredible increase in the prevalence of autism in the last two decades. With each new case that is reported, there is a growing need for resources to support people on the spectrum, yet these resources barely scratch the surface of what is really required.

Families wait six months or more for an initial diagnosis due to low numbers of developmental pediatricians and alternative avenues for proper diagnosis. Waitlists for therapies can be equally long, and these therapies cost hundreds of dollars for each visit if they are not covered by insurance, for those families who even have insurance to begin with. Many school districts cannot provide appropriate services to students on the autism spectrum, and yet families still need, in many cases, to hire a special education attorney to litigate and fight for the services and education their children are entitled to. At the state level, there are waiting lists in the tens of thousands for adults on the spectrum to find appropriate housing placements. There are simply not enough resources and supports for people with autism throughout their lifespan.

Thankfully, while there is still a lot of work to be done to fill these critical resource gaps, we are seeing new and innovative ideas coming to the market trying to solve many of these issues. Historically, these gaps have been addressed primarily by nonprofits, but with the entry of for-profit investment vehicles in the venture and private equity spaces, new ideas are scaling more efficiently. Having experienced these gaps firsthand through my family’s personal experience throughout my brother’s life, I am extremely optimistic and excited for the future that we can create when we bring together these new for-profit ventures with the nonprofits that have served our communities for so many years. More importantly, with greater scale comes greater accessibility for the communities that are most in need.

Below, I highlight some of the companies that are working to improve the lives of people with autism, from diagnosis and education to employment and adult supports. This is just a small sampling of the incredible innovation being supported by organizations like the Autism Impact Fund, the first-ever venture fund dedicated solely to autism, Multiple, a nonprofit focused on early-stage autism innovation, Difference Partners, a venture fund focused on neurodiversity, and others. Alongside these efforts, statewide initiatives from Autism NJ continue to support those affected across the entire lifespan.

Cortica is the market leader in bringing together all the resources a child and family need (pediatric neurology, genetics, other medical expertise, behavioral therapists, speech therapists, and more), addressing underlying behavioral and medical conditions using custom built technology for care coordination and data capture. The Company’s robust array of screening tools, services, and interventions enables Cortica to deliver programs that are tailored to the unique medical and behavioral needs of the individual.

SpectrumAi is developing a framework for delivering and monitoring value-based therapy for individuals with autism. The Company is leveraging digital protocols, AI-augmented clinical decision making, and automated data capture to facilitate improved outcomes, lower lifetime treatment costs, and more accessible care.

Joshin supports disability and neurodivergence in the workplace and life by providing employers and employees with expert guidance, 1:1 coaching sessions, on-demand training and resources, personalized navigation, and peer-to-peer community support. We help companies create a culture designed for everyone.

Floreo is leveraging the power of virtual reality to provide a method of teaching social, behavioral, communication, and life skills for individuals with ASD, ADHD, anxiety, and related diagnoses. With a mobile-friendly platform that is remotely accessible at an affordable price point, Floreo is addressing several key barriers to care.

Healios (US subsidiary: Meliora Health) is a multinational healthcare company providing telehealth services for children and adults, online diagnosis for ADHD and autism, and mental health therapy. Healios’ virtual services include tech-driven diagnosis, mental health and client needs assessment, and mental health support, with a suite of services including gold-standard diagnostic tools, goals-based intervention, cognitive behavior therapy, professional coaching, and post-diagnostic support.

Daivergent is an all-virtual job-readiness platform that offers professional and soft skills training for the 70 million Americans in the autism and disability population. The offering is made available directly to users and under Vocational Rehabilitation for families in Arizona and Texas. Daivergent has enabled 2,500 people to achieve their personal & professional goals, and placed over 600 job-seekers into 21st century work-from-home careers across IT, Customer Service, and Business Operations.



Amanda Lukof is a special needs advocate and the sister of a brother with autism. A lawyer by training, she spent several years practicing special education law before serving as outside counsel for UBS Financial Services Inc. In 2009 she founded Autism Speaks to Young Professionals, an event series aiming to raise awareness for the next generation of parents. She also served as the Chairperson of Special Events for Newmark Education, helping to raise $12 million for its Destination of Promise campaign, the culmination of which was a state-of-the-art building serving students K-12 in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

After leaving corporate law in 2020, Amanda has worked tirelessly as an advocate for the special needs community, with a focus on impact investing and early stage innovation. She serves as a Strategic Advisor for the Autism Impact Fund and is on the Board of Directors for the Cooke School, a special needs school in New York City. She also serves as a Board member for Multiple, a nonprofit accelerator for early stage autism innovation.


Photo credit: girafchik123