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Image of people holding hands. The NLM Family Foundation - Fostering knowledge and community for autism and beyond.


The NLM Family Foundation was established in 1977 by Nancy Lurie Marks. At this time, autism was a condition which received little public attention and attracted scant interest or funding in the scientific, medical and educational arenas. The vision and hope of the founder was to undertake a long-term commitment to gain knowledge about autism; to help individuals and families with autism; to bring autism openly into the public eye; and to encourage the free exchange of information about autism. The pathfinding journey was launched to support emerging researchers in this nascent field, and to begin to put autism on the map of social and scientific awareness. Early grants to pioneering researchers and centers in autism and neuroscience included:

  • Support for the neurobiological investigations of the brain in autism by Dr. Margaret Bauman, Pediatric Neurology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA;

  • Support for the Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, CT focusing on comprehensive evaluations, diagnosis, and intervention for children with disabilities, as well as support for research projects in autism at the Center;

  • Support for special research related to autism conducted by the late Dr. Norman Geschwind, the James Jackson Putnam Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Chairman of the Department of Neurology at the Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA;

  • Establishment of the Nancy Lurie Marks Chair in Developmental Neuroscience and Director of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA;

  • Support of neuroscience research and development at the Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA and support of a symposium on "The Emotional Motor System", organized by Dr. Gert Holstege (Department of Anatomy and Embryology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands), Dr. Richard Bandler (Department of Anatomy, University of Sydney, Australia), and Dr. Clifford Saper (Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School/ Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, USA). The symposium sparked the publication of the book, The Emotional Motor System, edited by Holstege, Bandler, and Saper, which represents an overview of the conference proceedings on the emotional motor system.

  • Support for the development of The Autism Research Foundation (TARF) led by Dr. Margaret Bauman, Boston, MA . TARF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching the neurological underpinnings of autism and other related developmental brain disorders.

  • Support for the League School of Boston, modeled after the League School of Brooklyn, NY under the direction of Dr. Carl Fenichel, devoted solely to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

  • Support for the Benhaven School residential and educational program for individuals with autism in Connecticut.

In addition, the Foundation established an early history of giving to Boston area community and biomedical organizations including the Combined Jewish Philanthropies; The Dana Farber Cancer Institute where the Foundation provided funds to establish the Nancy Lurie Marks Research Fund, the Morris John Lurie Endowment Fund, the Morris John Lurie Conference Room, and the Lurie Biomedical Library; Boston Symphony; Facing History and Ourselves; Museum of Fine Arts; area university forums in education/public policy on autism and alternative/augmentative communication in autism; and progressive community living projects for individuals with developmental disabilities.

In the mid 1990s, the Foundation set up its headquarters in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts under the directorship of H. Eric Cushing. Recognizing the need to establish a public charitable organization focused on accelerating research into the biological causes of autism, the Foundation played a key role as an early sustainer and capacity-builder of the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR). In 2007, NAAR merged with Autism Speaks to create the largest publicly-supported organization for advancing autism research and advocacy in the United States.

In the decades since the NLM Family Foundation began its work, autism has gained an increasing level of attention from the public, from governmental agencies and amongst the scientific and social-educational communities. While so much remains to be discovered about the nature of autism, the educational, social, and life issues for individuals and families with autism, and for society's understanding of autism, the field has certainly grown enormously due to enhanced public awareness and more widespread support of autism research.

With the dedicated involvement of extended family, trustees and professionals, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation continues to build upon its founder's original vision and unwavering commitment to the cause of autism.

For further information on the NLM Family Foundation's grants and current initiatives, please click on the Grants section.

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