My passion for AANE began in 2005 when I reached out as a mom of three young boys. I was concerned that my autistic son wouldn’t be able to adjust to a move to Massachusetts from New Jersey. He wanted friends, but other kids and their parents often misunderstood him. I wanted to find a place where he would feel accepted and appreciated for who he was – without having to mask his autism to fit in.
So I called AANE – the person on the other end of the line was warm and welcoming. I immediately felt the potency of being heard and understood. That single phone call connected me to a community and made me hopeful for my family’s future. I felt like I’d finally found my home.
In 2007, I began my professional career with AANE by working with families. I found that parents were seeking information to better understand their children and support them. They wanted someone to guide them through the confusing reports and the maze of services. For many, AANE was the first place that made them feel like they weren’t alone, just like it was for me.
As a parent and professional, my best teachers have been my now 25 year-old autistic son and the neurodivergent adults I’ve gotten to know through AANE. I feel deeply for the challenges they face each day navigating in a world not designed for them. Their perspectives and insights have helped shape how I think and talk about autism and neurodiversity. I am very pleased that AANE is a place where people with neurodiverse profiles can bring their authentic selves.
I am thrilled to become the second executive director in AANE’s 25 year history. My devotion to AANE, which began more than 16 years ago, hasn’t wavered. The opportunity to sustain and expand the organization that has meant so much to me personally and professionally is one I look forward to realizing. I am committed to building on the legacy of our founding director Dania Jekel.
Over the years, I have had the privilege to collaborate with our insightful staff, board, volunteers, committee members, and community. Your lived experience informs AANE’s programmatic focus and inspires our mission “to help build meaningful connected lives,” with you, our community, at the core.
Whether you are a long time member or new to AANE, be assured that AANE’s central purpose will not change. The resources, guidance, and place of belonging AANE has always provided will be here for autistic individuals, family & friends, and professionals who serve in the autism community. AANE was one of the first of its kind, and its innovative spirit will continue, as always, being guided by the needs of our community.
I am excited to begin a series of live online, “Executive Director Community Chat” sessions, providing everyone with the opportunity to share their experiences and ideas with me directly. Listening to you and understanding your pressing issues and concerns will enable us to creatively respond and seek out the resources to make new programs and services that fit your needs. I hope you will join me in conversation as we continue this journey together.