After arranging for the therapies that his son needed, Shah began researching charities dedicated to autism. He found two main types: support groups for autistic people and their families and charities that funded research. He decided to concentrate on supporting the latter group. As a former medical student, Shah was interested in discovering the causes of autism.
While in college, Shah had worked as a DJ at local nightclubs. He therefore decided to use concerts as a way to raise money and awareness for autism research. He thus began collaborating with Done Events, a government-run company that organizes events. Their first effort was a two-night long jazz festival that featured performers like Elvis Costello and Joss Stone.
Through Done Events, Shah met Prince in 2014. A few weeks later, Shah launched his own charity, Autism Rocks, and the opening concert in London had Prince as the headliner. British comedians Michael McIntyre and Alan Carr also performed, and the concert raised £200,000 ($287,562.90). Shah hopes to not only continue organizing concerts but to assemble an album of songs by musicians who have performed for Autism Rocks.
Autism Rocks currently holds small, private concerts that draw one or two thousand people. The concerts are technically free — but guests are expected to make donations.
The money raised by Autism Rocks goes to the Autism Research Trust (ART) which in turn funds the Autism Research Center (ARC). Based at Cambridge University, ARC is currently running over a dozen research projects designed to identify autistic people as early as possible and study various treatments to determine which ones are the most effective. ARC also researches the causes of autism. During one project involving MRI brain scans, scientists at ARC found that autism affected different parts of the brain in men and women. Researchers would like to know if such differences influence people’s response to treatment.
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