Autistic Self Advocacy Network

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Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Autistic Self Advocacy Network symbol.gif
ASAN logo
Motto"Nothing About Us, Without Us!"
FoundedNovember 2006
FoundersAri Ne'eman and Scott Michael Robertson
Type501(c)(3) [non-profit]
FocusPublic policy
  • Washington, DC
MethodPublications, policy advocacy
Grants and donations
WebsiteAutistic Self Advocacy Network

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy organization run by and for individuals on the autism spectrum. ASAN holds that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy the same access, rights, and opportunities as all other people, and that autistic voices should be included in any public discourse on autism, whether in public policy, mass media, or other venues. ASAN is based in Washington, D.C.[1]


The Autistic Self Advocacy Network provides community organizing, self-advocacy support, and public policy advocacy and education for autistic youth and adults, as well as working to improve the general public's understanding of autism and related conditions. The organization is "run by and for autistic adults".[2] ASAN's mission statement says that autistic people are equal to everyone else, and important and necessary members of society.[3] ASAN also maintains a network of 25 local chapters based in different states, with three chapter affiliates in Canada and Australia.[4][5]


The Autistic Self Advocacy Network was co-founded in November 2006 by its former President, Ari Ne'eman,[6] and former Board of Trustees member and Vice Chair of Development, Scott Michael Robertson. By 2009, ASAN had 15 chapters.[7]

ASAN's early work mostly focused on fighting the use of aversives, restraint, and seclusion in special education;[8][9][10] in December 2007, they spoke out publicly against Autism Speaks,[11] and against the NYU Child Study Center's Ransom Notes ad campaign, which compared autism, ADHD, OCD, and eating disorders to kidnappers holding children hostage.[12][13] This counter-campaign[14] put ASAN on the public's radar and has been referred to as the neurodiversity movement's coming of age.[15] ASAN continues to protest Autism Speaks.[16]

On July 18, 2016, Ari Ne'eman announced that he would resign as president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, to be replaced by Julia Bascom in early 2017.[17] Bascom now holds the title of ASAN President.


The Autistic Self Advocacy Network promotes autism awareness and acceptance through public policy initiatives,[18] research reform[19] and cross-disability collaboration, community outreach,[20] college advocacy,[21] publishing,[22][23] and employment initiatives.[24] ASAN has also supported initiatives to raise the minimum wage.[25] They also fought against federal contractors paying disabled people sub-minimum wage in 2014.[26] Their campaign to prevent workers from being paid sub-minimum wage by federal contractors was successful.[1] In addition, ASAN has also been involved in helping businesses hire autistic individuals.[27]

ASAN opposed Kevin and Avonte’s Law, which would have provided money to fight wandering behavior in autistic children. According to an editorial in Vox, ASAN was originally neutral, but after several modifications were made, including tracking people to prevent them from harming others, ASAN and several other disabilities rights groups opposed the proposed law over privacy concerns. Congress failed to pass Kevin and Avonte’s Law.[28] Ne'eman also claimed that wandering behavior among autistics was caused by physical and sexual abuse, and therefore the law would ignore the cause of the wandering. In response, Amy S.F. Lutz pointed out that according to the study used for the argument, most autistic children that wander actually displayed positive emotions during their wandering. Lutz also claimed that the privacy hysteria was "baseless", as wandering had been an official diagnosis for five years, and there are a wide variety of communication devices to put on children are available with no retaliation. Kevin and Avonte's law would simply have provided more funding to make those devices available to more people.[29]

ASAN is the Autistic community partner for the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership In Research and Education (AASPIRE).[30] The AASPIRE project brings together the academic community and the Autistic community,[31] in a research format called community-based participatory research, to develop and perform research projects relevant to the needs of Autistic adults.

ASAN's chapters work collaboratively with the national branch on nationwide projects; an example of this is Day of Mourning, an event on March 1 where local chapters of ASAN, as well as independent groups, host candlelight vigils in remembrance of disabled people murdered by their caregivers.[32][33] The first campaign was suggested by Zoe Gross of California, who had heard of a case where a young autistic man was murdered by his mother who later committed suicide.[33] The vigils honor people with all kinds of disabilities.[33]

Local chapters have also protested billboards in Seattle which advocated "wiping out" autism. Arzu Forough of the organization Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy claimed that coverage of this event could have misled people about the effects of autism. She claimed that ASAN promoted the idea that Autistics have trivial difficulties, obscuring the level of support that some autistics need.[34]

The actor William Shatner criticized ASAN after supporters of the organization criticized him for his support for Autism Speaks by claiming “I supported an awareness day hashtag that appears to be scorned by a group that doesn’t want awareness.” Shatner described his views on ASAN's activism by stating that instead of making defeating Autism Speaks their main goal, ASAN should advocate for its own views.[35]

ASAN published a book for autistic people in college, called Navigating College Handbook.[36] The book was considered "the first of its kind."[36] In 2012, ASAN began the annual Autism Campus Inclusion (ACI) Summer Institute,[37] a week-long workshop teaching Autistic students to engage in activism and advocacy on their campuses.[38] Disability rights activist Lydia Brown is an alumn of the leadership program.[39]

The Loud Hands Project, a transmedia publishing effort for curating and hosting submissions by Autistic people about voice, has also been active during 2012, in the form of a Kickstarter campaign and an anthology, both founded and organized by Julia Bascom. Later in 2012, ASAN also published the anthology Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking, which features several dozen essays by autistic neurodiversity activists including Jim Sinclair and Ari Ne'eman.[40]

In April 2013, as part of Autism Acceptance Month – a counter-movement against the cure-focused Light It Up Blue and Autism Awareness Month movements – ASAN launched an Autism Acceptance Month web site.[41][42]

ASAN has been critical of statements made which link vaccines to autism.[43]

In 2015, ASAN worked with Sesame Workshop to create an autistic character for Sesame Street, named Julia.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Somashekhar, Sandhya (20 July 2015). "How Autistic Adults Banded Together to Start a Movement". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  2. ^ Sommer, Allison Kaplan (26 January 2015). "Autistic Self-advocate and Obama Appointee Ari Ne'eman Wins $100,000 Ruderman Prize". Haaretz. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  3. ^ ASAN: About
  4. ^ Johnson, James A. (20 March 2012). "Gifted, Challenged". Newport Daily News. Retrieved 1 March 2016 – via Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  5. ^ Autistic Self Advocacy Network. "Chapters". Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  6. ^ Heim, Joe (5 March 2015). "Just Asking: Ari Ne'eman, Co-Founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 18 November 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2016 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)).
  7. ^ Wallis, Claudia (2 November 2009). "A Powerful Identity, a Vanishing Diagnosis". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  8. ^ Testimony on Aversives & Restraints
  9. ^ ACTION ALERT: Autistic Six-Year-Old Charged With Assault
  10. ^ Diament, Michelle (5 October 2010). "Senators Propose Revised Restraint And Seclusion Bill". Disability Scoop. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  11. ^ Comments at November 30, 2007 IACC Meeting
  12. ^ Warner, Judith (20 December 2007). "Marketing Disorder". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  13. ^ Solomon, Andrew (25 May 2008). "The Autism Rights Movement". New York Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  14. ^ Tell NYU Child Study Center to Abandon Stereotypes
  15. ^ Kras, Joseph F. (2010). "The 'Ransom Notes' Affair: When the Neurodiversity Movement Came of Age". Disability Studies Quarterly. 30 (1). Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  16. ^ Reynolds, Brandon R. (31 October 2012). "Changing Minds: Advocates Reshape How We Think About Autism". SF Weekly. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  17. ^ Ne'eman, Ari. "A Message from ASAN President Ari Ne'eman". Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  18. ^ ASAN: Policy Advocacy
  19. ^ "Autism Advocates Want Funding for Services Not Research". Guardian Liberty Voice. 15 May 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  20. ^ ASAN: Changing Perceptions
  21. ^ Navigating College homepage
  22. ^ ASAN: Books
  23. ^ ASAN: Reports and Brief Materials
  24. ^ ASAN: Employment
  25. ^ Fleischer, Chris (27 July 2014). "Advocacy Groups Stand Against 'Sub-Minimum' Wage for Workers with Disabilities". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved 1 March 2016 – via EBSCO. (Subscription required (help)).
  26. ^ Ne'eman, Ari (1 February 2016). "How We're Failing Jews With Disabilities". Forward. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  27. ^ Moffitt, Susan (21 July 2011). "Advocacy Group Boosts Autism Employment Prospects". Autism Key. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  28. ^ Ne'eman, Ari (17 December 2016). "Safety versus autonomy: advocates for autistic children split over tracking devices". Vox. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  29. ^ Lutz, Amy. "117 Autistic Children and Adults Who Died Deserve Better". Psychology Today. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  30. ^ AASPIRE homepage
  31. ^ Wood, Janice (2012). "Adults with Autism Report Shortcomings in Health Care". Psych Central. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  32. ^ ASAN: Day of Mourning on March 1st
  33. ^ a b c Young, Lesley (27 March 2012). "Disability Advocates Alarmed By Parents Who Kill". Disability Scoop. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  34. ^ Person, Daniel (17 July 2013). "Who Should Define Autism?". Seattle Weekly News. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  35. ^ "William Shatner Under Fire for Spreading Autism Awareness | Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia". Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  36. ^ a b Diament, Michelle (25 October 2011). "Handbook Offers College Advice For Students With Autism". Disability Scoop. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  37. ^ ASAN is Now Accepting Applications for the 2013 Summer Leadership Academy
  38. ^ "2016 Autism Campus Inclusion (ACI) Leadership Academy". Graduate School of Education and Human Development. George Washington University. 19 January 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  39. ^ Baldwin, Amy. The job prob: How learning to lead can help you succeed, Student Health 101, 2015.
  40. ^
  41. ^ Autism Acceptance Month: About
  42. ^ Diament, Michelle (1 April 2013). "With Autism Awareness Month Comes Push For Acceptance". Disability Scoop. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  43. ^ Miller, Michael E. (17 September 2015). "The GOP's Dangerous 'Debate' On Vaccines and Autism". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  44. ^ Diament, Michelle (21 October 2015). "'Sesame Street' Unveils Character With Autism". Disability Scoop. Retrieved 1 March 2016.

External links[edit]