Over the past few years, I am proud to say the AANE community has grown to support Autistic individuals, families and professionals across the country and around the globe. Our community now reflects the many identities Autistic people embody in our society. From the newly diagnosed to those who have known about their autism for years, we serve Autistic and similarly Neurodivergent individuals from a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, identities, and locations.
Our organization began over 27 years ago, and we recognize a lot has changed in that time. Just as our community has continued to evolve, so has the understanding and language of autism. So over the past two years, AANE has been listening and learning to ensure that our language reflects the people we serve, and simultaneously, to ensure that all of our communications, especially aane.org—our hub of information, services, and programs—is meeting the needs of our community members. Here’s what we did:
- We engaged with and sought input from the Autistic individuals who are on our Board of Directors and staff, and who take part in our services.
- Through surveys, one-on-one meetings, user testing with the new site, and open chats with our executive director on the use of language, we engaged our wider community of Autistic individuals, family members, and professionals.
- We assessed language use by our peer organizations, online Autistic networks, and key Autistic voices.
Our findings highlighted that our name, the Asperger/Autism Network, no longer aligns with how the majority of people we serve, and intend to serve, refer to themselves and their loved ones. In response to these findings we felt it was important to find a new name for the organization that reflects our current and future community, the breadth of our services, and our inclusive values. With gratitude for the time, thought, and insight shared by so many Autistic community members, families, professionals, staff and board members over the past two years, I am pleased to announce our new name is the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity.
With this name, we aim to be more visible and accessible to those who need us: Autistic individuals, their families, and those who work with the Autistic community. We welcome all who feel they can benefit from our organization, with or without an autism diagnosis, and honor the intention of our mission: that all individuals have value, deserve dignity, and should have access to community.
This process also reaffirmed that our website remains one of the most important resources for our community. To better serve the millions who come to our site every year, we have redesigned aane.org with an expansive group of users in mind. It is now easier to navigate and more accessible. I hope you will check out the new aane.org, which is now live.
Along with our new name and new website, AANE has transitioned to use identity-first language in our communications and on our website. We have made this change because we believe that an individual’s neurotype is an intrinsic part of who they are. We also embrace the capitalization of “Autistic” and “Neurodivergent” to recognize the importance of this vibrant and established culture.
We understand not everyone in our current—or even future—community will agree with these choices. We will always respect and encourage everyone to use the language that is right for them. If you identify as an individual with autism or Asperger’s, or “on the spectrum,” or an Aspie, or anything else—you are welcome here. As always, a diagnosis is not required to be a part of our community or take part in our programs or services. And for those who wish to reach out to us about our name and language changes or provide feedback about our new website please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We value your thoughts and opinions, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks to everyone who has helped us along this journey of transformation.We are grateful for the way our dynamic, engaged, warm community has informed and shaped our work for 27 years, and we are excited for AANE to continue to grow. We are now named the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity, but our mission has not changed: AANE continues to help Autistic and similarly Neurodivergent people build meaningful, connected lives. We provide individuals, families, and professionals with education, community and support—in an inclusive atmosphere of validation and respect.
Our promise is to continue to deliver on that mission every day.
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