Organizations go through many stages. One of the most challenging and important are transitions in leadership, particularly when they involve founding members. Over the last ten years, I have had the honor and privilege of building and directing the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. That experience has been one of the single most important and impactful things I have ever been a part of.
In the last decade, ASAN has grown from a small group of students seeking to build a better world into one of the premier disability rights organizations in the United States. Thanks to the spectacular efforts of our board, staff and network of volunteers, this organization is much greater than any single individual. But organizations require new leadership in order to continue to grow.
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.
ASAN has come to stand for many things over the last decade, but one of the most important is the idea that we can and should have control over our own destiny. Despite the best efforts of many to relegate us to bystanders in our own life stories, we have taken control over our own narrative and built a powerful sense of identity together.
This innovation is not the property of any single person or organization. It doesn’t belong to the most famous or the loudest among us. It is the birthright of every Autistic person, an invitation to those of us who are quietest and most alone to become a part of something larger. Through the Autistic community, we can not only fight against those who talk about us, without us. More importantly, we can also build together, creating something that belongs to all of us and to which we can belong in turn. In my opinion, this is the most important part of the neurodiversity movement.
I am honored to be a part of those efforts, just as I am incredibly pleased by the way in which ASAN and the Autistic community are now organic parts of the larger disability rights culture. We will never again accept the idea that the values of inclusion, self-determination and dignity that lie at the heart of the disability rights revolution have no part to play in the autism world. We are now part of the disability community, and we will defend that with everything we have. From community integration to defending our rights across the lifespan, I’m proud of the leadership role we are playing on some of the most important issues of our time.
Since I will likely continue to work with many of my colleagues in future capacities and still have five months left till my departure in December, I will avoid saying goodbye at this time. Instead, let me take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the Autistic and broader disability community that has worked alongside us in building ASAN into what it is today. This organization belongs to all of you. I am excited to see what the next ten years of autistic self-advocacy, neurodiversity and ASAN will bring. Thank you for working with us, and I look forward to continuing the fight to build a better world for our people.
As always, Nothing About Us Without Us,
President, Autistic Self Advocacy Network