Our Language & History

For over 27 years, AANE’s mission and services have been shaped by the people we serve.

From the beginning, AANE has strived to be an inclusive organization. Autistic and similarly Neurodivergent adults have long been members of our staff and governance. As our community has expanded and become more diverse, we have transformed our programs and resources to meet new needs—and we’ve worked to thoughtfully update our language along the way. Scroll down to learn more about our name, the way we use language, and our history.

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If you have questions or comments about anything on this page, please email us at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!

AANE is now the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity

New name. Same mission.

AANE has changed its name from the Asperger/Autism Network to the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity. At the same time, we have transitioned to using identity first language.

We still serve the same community, and encourage everyone to use the language that they feel comfortable with. Play the video to hear from our Executive Director, Brenda Dater, about our decision to make these changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Name and Our Language

Why did you change your name?
Does your new name change who you serve?
Will you serve the entirety of the neurodiverse community?
Why did you keep “autism” in your name?
Why did you add “neurodiversity” to your name?
“Asperger’s” has been out of the DSM for a while. What took you so long to make the change?
Why do you capitalize “Autistic” and “Neurodivergent”?
Why are you now using identity-first language?
I don’t see the words I use to identify in your name—am I still welcome?
Can I still use the words I am comfortable with while using AANE programs and services?
I have more questions and/or feedback I would like to share—how can I do that?

Milestones in Our History

Originally founded in Massachusetts in 1996 by parents and professionals as the Asperger’s Association of New England, AANE set out to build a supportive community by providing education, information, and referrals to individuals with what was then called Asperger’s Syndrome, their extended families, and the professionals who work with them.

In its first two decades, AANE also engaged in legislative advocacy for appropriate, quality services for Autistic individuals, and lobbied for autism legislation and funding at the local, state, and national levels. We advocated for services for individuals of all ages and focused on supporting a vast range of currently unsupported needs. The AANE staff and community were instrumental in the passing of the Massachusetts Autism Omnibus Bill, the Anti-Bullying Act, and a Massachusetts bill which requires an IEP Team to consider and specifically address the full range of a child’s complex communication, social, behavioral, and academic needs resulting from Autism Spectrum Disorder to help ensure provision of state-of-the-art supports and services (Massachusetts laws 71B section 3 paragraph 6).

In October of 2014, AANE changed its name to the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE), keeping the same acronym while evolving to meet changes in the diagnostic environment. The new name also acknowledged our reach beyond New England. As the Asperger/Autism Network, more people were able to find us, regardless of where they lived or what diagnosis they received under the new DSM-5 guidelines.

In May, 2019, AANE expanded by joining forces with the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association (AHA), a like-minded non-profit organization originally based in New York. For more than 30 years, AHA had been an important resource to Autistic individuals, families and professionals in the Tri-state area, and a frequent collaborator with AANE. Combining the two organizations enabled AANE to grow and innovate to better serve the Autistic community.

Between 2020 and 2023, our community rapidly expanded, and today, AANE reflects the many identities Autistic people embody in our society. From the newly diagnosed to those who have known about their autism for years, AANE serves Autistic and similarly Neurodivergent individuals from a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, identities, and locations. Over this period of rapid growth, as Brenda Dater, Executive Director, notes in the video above, it became clear 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. We sought a new name that reflects our current and future community, the breadth of our services, and our inclusive values.” In September 2023, we became the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity.

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