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Monday, July 18, 2016

Ari Ne'eman to Step Down

In 2006, 19-year-old Ari Ne’eman, who had a diagnosis of Asperger’s, cofounded the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in response to what members saw as the absence of autistic voices in policy debates on autism. As a motto, the group adopted a saying from the broader disability rights movement, “Nothing About Us Without Us.” ASAN gained national publicity in 2007, with a successful campaign against billboards by the NYU Child Study Center depicting autism as a kidnaper. The ads, said the group, stigmatized people with autism by suggesting that their condition was hopeless. Although billboards appeared only in New York City, the response was nationwide. ASAN used the Internet to join forces with other disability rights organizations and gather thousands of petition signatures.
At the beginning of 2017, in five months time, I will be passing the Presidency of ASAN on to Julia Bascom, the organization’s current Deputy Executive Director and leaving the ASAN staff to contribute to the disability rights movement in new ways. Since joining the organization in 2012, Julia has played a critical role in building ASAN’s leadership programs along with other important aspects of our advocacy work and community programming. She already plays a central role within ASAN’s ongoing work, and I am very confident that the organization will grow and prosper in new and interesting ways under her leadership.
I’m convinced that this is the best way to help ASAN take the next steps into the future. Every organization requires periodic changes in leadership, and I am excited to be handing ASAN over to an excellent successor who will continue to grow it in line with the values and energy that have built us into what we are today. I am looking forward to being a part of new projects and continuing to build our movement in other roles.
This transition has been long planned. Our board was notified at the beginning of this year, and I have worked closely with the ASAN senior staff to ensure a smooth transition will take place at the end of December. Over the next five months, we will continue to work to ensure that ASAN’s important work continues to thrive and grow. As I move on to new things, I will nonetheless remain a member of the ASAN board of directors.