May Institute

Julia Burgess, M.S., M.B.A.
Senior Director, Strategic and Corporate Communications

May Institute Marks 55 Years of Leadership in Serving Individuals with Autism and Other Special Needs



Randolph, Mass.—Dr. Jacques and Mrs. Marie-Anne May were far ahead of their time when they founded May Institute in April of 1955 to provide a supportive environment and progressive treatment for their twin sons with autism. Back then, most individuals with special needs did not have access to effective community-based programs and services, and were institutionalized for life.

Since its founding, May Institute has evolved from one small Massachusetts school for children with autism into an award-winning national nonprofit network that provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral health services to thousands of children and adults throughout the country each year with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), brain injury, mental illness, and other special needs.

“I’m very proud of our long history and the fact that May Institute played an important role in de-institutionalization in the 1970s,” said President and CEO Walter P. Christian, Ph.D., ABPP, who has been at the helm of the Institute for the past 32 years. “We have advocated tirelessly for individuals with special needs, and built high quality programs, schools, and group homes to serve this population. In the 1980s, after building an excellent organizational and programmatic infrastructure here in Massachusetts, we began to successfully replicate our service model throughout the country. I believe we have far surpassed Jacques and Marie-Anne May’s vision by creating a national network of programs that is exceptional.”

Since 1997, the Institute more than doubled in size, with annual revenues increasing from $42M to $104M. It has increased its staff by more than 100 percent from 1,265 to 2,598, and expanded its programming to include service locations throughout New England, the Southeast, and on the West Coast. Today, the Institute provides evidence-based services to over 25,000 individuals and their families each year.

May Institute now operates five special education schools and provides early intervention, home-based, and school consultation services that meet the needs of hundreds of children on a daily basis. It provides comprehensive autism diagnostic services in several locations. The Institute also offers day programs, vocational training, and community-based living for adults of all ages with developmental disabilities. In addition, it operates mental health counseling centers, and runs five psychosocial clubhouses for individuals with severe and persistent psychiatric disorders.

Over the past three years, May Institute opened autism centers in Georgia and North Carolina to serve both military and civilian families who have children with ASD and other developmental disabilities. The Institute is now preparing to expand its services for military families to other states. “As we have with other underserved populations, we identified a pressing need for autism services in military communities and made the necessary financial and operational decisions required to begin addressing that need,” said Dr. Christian.

In addition to its leadership role in providing high quality clinical services, May Institute has also been instrumental in helping shape both perception and policy affecting individuals with special needs.

Five years ago, the Institute established the National Autism Center, one of May Institute’s Centers of Excellence, and spearheaded its dissemination of national standards for effective educational and behavioral interventions in the treatment of autism. These standards represent the most comprehensive review ever done, and have been downloaded from the Center’s website by individuals from every state in the U.S., as well as from over 70 countries.

An active center of research and training, May Institute maintains affiliations with 55 universities, hospitals, and human service agencies. Since 1978, May professionals have published 340 books and articles, and have conducted more than 1700 presentations at national and regional conferences.

Highlights of May Institute’s 55 years include:

  • 1955 - Opens first school for children with autism in Chatham, Mass.
  • 1978 - Names Walter P. Christian, Ph.D., ABPP, as Executive Director
  • 1983 - Partners with Children’s Hospital (Boston) in pioneering home-based early intervention services for children with autism and their families
  • 1987 - Opens homes for adults with disabilities as an alternative to institutional care
  • 1988 - Named one of the nation’s “Schools of Excellence” by the U.S. Department of Education
  • 1992 - Pioneers one of the nation’s first schools exclusively for children and adolescents with brain injury
  • 1993 - Establishes mental health services division
  • 1995 - Offers early intervention and school consultation services in western Massachusetts, and expands services to Maine
  • 1996 - Opens first adult residences in Connecticut
  • 1996 - Expands mental health services to southeastern Massachusetts
  • 1997 - Featured in the book In Search of America’s Best Nonprofits (Jossey-Bass)
  • 1997 - Opens Center for Children and Families through collaboration with Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Mass.
  • 1997 - Wins contract to operate five psychosocial rehabilitation clubhouses, becoming nation’s largest provider of clubhouse services
  • 1998 - Receives accreditation by the American Psychological Association for its Predoctoral Internship Program In Clinical Psychology
  • 1998 - Selected as state-wide specialty provider in Massachusetts for intensive early intervention specialty services
  • 1998 - Establishes Southeast division in Atlanta, Ga.
  • 1999 - Provides mental health services to probationers and parolees in Georgia
  • 2000 - Implements Positive Schools program in multiple urban school districts
  • 2002 - Opens community-based residential programs for children in Florida
  • 2003 - Creates May Institute’s Graduate Scholars program
  • 2003 - Opens new May Center school in West Springfield, Mass., for children with autism and other special needs
  • 2004 - Selected as the Northeast Regional Partner to the National Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education
  • 2004 - Expands Florida residential services to include adults with developmental disabilities
  • 2005 - Receives the Outstanding Training Program Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT)
  • 2005 - Founds the National Autism Center to support effective, evidence-based treatment approaches for autism
  • 2005 - Opens new May Center school for children with autism and other special needs in Woburn, Mass.
  • 2005 - Opens new state-of-the-art campus and May Center school for children with autism and other special needs in Randolph, Mass.
  • 2006 - Establishes West Coast division by welcoming The Bay School in Santa Cruz, Calif., as the newest May Center school for children with autism and other special needs
  • 2006 - Establishes Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Clinic in Randolph, Mass.
  • 2007 - Receives the Award for Enduring Programmatic Contributions in Behavior Analysis from the Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Analysis (SABA)
  • 2007 - Opens Southeast Regional Autism Center in Columbus, Ga., to serve Army families at Fort Benning and surrounding areas
  • 2008 - President and CEO Walter P. Christian, Ph.D., ABPP receives the “Champions in Health Care Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Boston Business Journal
  • 2008 - Receives over $1M from the Cadence Foundation to create a Pediatric Specialty Center in San Jose, Calif.
  • 2009 - Opens Southeast Regional Autism Center in Jacksonville, N.C., to serve Marine families at Camp Lejeune and surrounding areas
  • 2009 - Upon completion of the National Autism Center’s National Standards Project, spearheads the broad dissemination of the project's results around the country and beyond