Around Town, Special Needs

Spotlight: Autism Society of Greater New Orleans

Located within New Orleans, amidst its lively cultural tapestry and storied past, exists an advocacy organization for families and individuals affected by autism. The Autism Society of Greater New Orleans (ASGNO), under the leadership of Executive Director Claire Tibbetts, provides essential resources and tailored programming to meet the varied needs of the autism community.

Established as an affiliate of the Autism Society of America, ASGNO traces its roots back to 1981. Officially incorporated in 2016 and granted 501c3 status in 2017, the organization has been steadfast in its mission to create connections and empower every member of the autism community with the resources needed to live fully.

Tibbetts explains, “What we try to do is create connections, empowering everyone in the autism community with the resources needed to live fully.” She emphasizes the importance of centering the voices of autistic individuals in every aspect of the organization’s endeavors, ensuring inclusivity and meaningful engagement. As Tibbetts likes to say, “Nothing about us without us.” This principle has been adopted by many in the disability community to highlight the need for full and direct participation in all decisions that impact their lives, which is exactly what Tibbetts is fighting for. 

At the heart of ASGNO’s initiatives lies its Information and Referral Service, providing personalized support to individuals, families, and professionals seeking guidance and information. Tibbetts shares, “Last year, I personally supported over 700 resource requests across all channels, ensuring that people received the support they needed when they needed it.”

In addition to the Information and Referral Service, ASGNO offers a myriad of programs, including inclusive community events like the Inclusive Egg Hunt, Autism Festival, Inclusive Halloween Party, and Sensory Santa Meet and Greet. This year, the 19th annual Autism Festival will be held on Saturday, April 20, starting at 11 a.m. These events foster connections within the community while providing access to local resources and services. Moreover, ASGNO hosts online social and support groups, mini-grant programs, educational opportunities, and a Vaccine Education Initiative aimed at increasing access and confidence in vaccinations and healthcare.

Tibbetts is also passionate about debunking stigmas surrounding autism, emphasizing the uniqueness of each individual’s experience. She advocates for the recognition of autism as a diverse spectrum and calls for the presumption of competence, urging society to treat autistic individuals with respect and dignity always.

She remarks, “Every person’s experience of autism is unique…autism is a way of being, a culture, an inseparable part of who people are.” Through education and awareness, ASGNO strives to foster an environment of acceptance and understanding.

The impact of ASGNO’s programs and events extends far beyond information and resources. Families and individuals find a sense of belonging and community, gaining confidence in their autistic identity and forming lifelong friendships. “People benefit when they understand what’s available to them. We have seen so many families and individuals gain confidence in their autistic identity and connect with others who understand them,” says Tibbetts.

What sets ASGNO apart is its unwavering commitment to centering autistic voices and prioritizing inclusivity in all endeavors. Tibbetts underscores the organization’s dedication to providing support rooted in the neurodiversity movement, ensuring that every individual feels welcomed and valued. As ASGNO continues to serve the community, there are numerous opportunities for involvement and support. From volunteering at events to spreading awareness online and donating, every contribution makes a difference in empowering the autism community.

ASGNO is currently on the hunt for new Board Members to become key decision-makers within the organization. While anyone is welcome to apply, Tibbetts is eager to incorporate more autistic voices into her team. “It’s really important to us that we have those voices regularly engaged in the leadership of our organization, in the materials we put out, and the programs we do,” she says. 

Anyone curious to learn more information about ASGNO and how to get involved can visit

This article was originally published in April 2024.

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