A Letter from the AANE Gala Committee

When you hear the word “gala”, what comes to mind?  

We hope it conjures joyful thoughts of reconnecting with friends and acquaintances, celebrating the accomplishments of a beloved organization, and supporting a mission that is important to you.

For some, particularly individuals in the Asperger/autism community, a gala can conjure up feelings of anxiety, sensory overload, and distress. Generally speaking, fundraising events like our annual gala are a very unfriendly environment for the very folks AANE’s programs and services are designed to support.

This fundamental conflict was not lost on us, which is why this year our gala will be autism-friendly. No other gala in the world has made accommodations for a neurodiverse audience, making our annual celebration truly uncommon. We are proud to be the first and only organization in the world to have designed a gala that is friendly to all neurologies.

Galas tend to be loud, crowded, hectic, and at times unpredictable. While we cannot change those elements completely, we intend to make the following modifications to our evening to create an autism-friendly environment:

  • Invite guests to wear a "spectrum of attires"
  • Ask guests to honor a fragrance-free night
  • Send a detailed schedule of gala program to all registered attendees in the days leading up to the event
  • Set up a separate, quieter room for more intimate conversations during cocktail hour
  • Provide activities such as puzzles or adult coloring books during cocktail hour
  • Serve a buffet dinner so each attendee can customize their meal
  • Make the reception hall accessible earlier so guests can exit the cocktail hour before it ends
  • Offer earplugs and fidget items for anyone who might need them

Our hope is that the AANE Uncommon Gala will both accommodate and celebrate our neurodiverse community, and we look forward to sharing this evening with you.