Our History

When May Institute was founded in 1955, little was known about autism.

Autistic children and those with other special needs were often institutionalized for life. Our founders, Dr. Jacques May and his wife Marie Anne had a vision of enabling their twin boys, and children like them, to lead the fullest lives possible.

To achieve that goal, they opened a small school in Chatham, Mass. Dr. and Mrs. May dedicated themselves to this community-based school where they would advance the quality of care for these children, and countless others to follow. The Mays developed the foundation for our organization today.

Today, May Institute is an award-winning national nonprofit organization that serves autistic children and adults, and those with other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs at more than 140 locations across the country.

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 across the country. The organization also offers a full range of services for adults of all ages with developmental disabilities including day programs, vocational training, and community-based living.

Since 1997, the May has more than doubled in size, with annual revenues increasing from $42M to $123M. It has increased its staff from 1,265 to more than 2,000, and expanded its programming to include service locations in more than a dozen states. Today, we provide evidence-based services to thousands of individuals and their families each year.

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.

In 2005, May Institute established the National Autism Center (NAC) at May Institute, and spearheaded NAC’s dissemination of national standards for effective educational and behavioral interventions in the treatment of autism. As NAC marked its 10th anniversary in 2015, it released Phase 2 of its National Standards Project. These standards represent the most comprehensive review ever completed, and have been downloaded from the Center’s website by individuals from every state in the U.S., as well as from more than 70 countries.

An active center of research and training, May Institute maintains affiliations with 50 universities, hospitals, and human service agencies worldwide. Staff members have authored hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and books, and have delivered thousands of presentations to regional, national, and international audiences.

Highlights of May Institute’s history



Opens first school for children with autism in Chatham, Mass.


Appoints Walter P. Christian, Ph.D., as Executive Director; Dr. Christian led the organization for 35 years, until his retirement in 2012


Partners with Children’s Hospital (Boston) in pioneering home-based early intervention services for children with autism and their families


Opens homes for adults with disabilities as an alternative to institutional care


Named one of the nation’s “Schools of Excellence” by the U.S. Department of Education


Pioneers one of the nation’s first schools exclusively for children and adolescents with brain injury


Establishes mental health services division


Opens first early intervention program for young children in South Hadley, Mass.


Featured in the book In Search of America’s Best Nonprofits (Jossey-Bass)


Selected as state-wide specialty provider in Massachusetts for intensive early intervention specialty services


Implements Positive Schools program in multiple urban school districts


Opens new May Center School in West Springfield, Mass., for children with autism and other special needs


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


Expands Florida residential services to include adults with developmental disabilities


Receives the Outstanding Training Program Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT)


Founds the National Autism Center to support effective, evidence-based treatment approaches for autism


Opens new May Center School for children with autism and other special needs in Woburn, Mass.


Opens new state-of-the-art campus and May Center School for children with autism and other special needs in Randolph, Mass.


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


Receives the Award for Enduring Programmatic Contributions in Behavior Analysis from the Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Analysis (SABA)


Opens Southeast Regional Autism Center in Columbus, Ga., to serve Army families at Fort Benning and surrounding areas


National Autism Center completes the National Standards Report - the most   comprehensive analysis of treatments for ASD ever published


Opens new autism center in North Carolina to serve military and civilian families


Newest Day Habilitation program for adults with special needs opens in Massachusetts


The U.S. Government’s Combined Federal Campaign names May Institute as a beneficiary


National Autism Center publishes manual for educators, Evidence-Based Practice and Autism in the Schools.


National Autism Center publishes autism manual for families


Opens new autism center in Savannah, Ga., to serve military and civilian families


May Center school in Randolph, Mass., opens the Todd Fournier Center for Employment Training and Community Inclusion


Appoints Dr. Lauren C. Solotar as President and Chief Executive Officer


Opens new autism center in the Washington D.C., area to serve military and civilian families


May Institute celebrates its 60th anniversary.


The National Autism Center completes the National Standards Project, Phase 2 - a new review of autism interventions across the lifespan


The National Autism Center at May Institute publishes Evidence-based Practice and Autism in the Schools, 2nd Edition.


May Institute receives a bequest of nearly $900,000 from the estate of the late Janet Wright Charlton O'Connor; establishes first endowment fund.


In collaboration with Work, Inc., May Institute opens the Center for Integrated Adult Autism Services.


May Institute launches its Shared Living Program, a residential option for adults with autism, intellectual disabilities, or acquired brain injury.


Opens a center-based program for preschoolers with ASD in Randolph, Mass.


Named number 26 on The Commonwealth Institute’s 2016 list of Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts


The National Autism Center at May Institute is selected by the U.S. State Department for the International Speaker Program.


The May Center School for Children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Woburn, Mass., expands and moves to Wilmington, Mass.


The May Center School for Children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities in West Springfield, Mass., moves to a new, expanded facility on Capital Drive.


Opened a center-based program in Wilmington, Mass., to provide best practice ABA services for children ages 3-10 with ASD.


Named number 17 on The Commonwealth Institute’s 2017 list of Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts


Named number 30 on The Commonwealth Institute's 2018 list of Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts


Named number 33 on The Commonwealth Institute’s 2019 list of Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts


Department of Defense funds important evaluation of early intensive behavioral intervention for autism spectrum disorder; May Institute partners with the Cleveland Clinic, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and the University of Rochester School of Medicine.


May Institute celebrates 65 years of improving life outcomes for individuals with autism and other special needs.

Receives multi-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education/Institute of Educational Sciences to reshape how schools support students with autism

Named one of Massachusetts’ largest nonprofits by the Boston Business Journal.

Named number 30 on the Commonwealth Institute's 2020 list of Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts. 


Awarded grant from the Organization for Autism Research to enhance services to rural and geographically isolated families.

Earns three-year accreditation from Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE); nationally recognized for commitment to quality improvement.

Opens May Center for Applied Behavior Analysis Services in Rincon, Ga., to serve children and families with autism.

Named one of Massachusetts' Top 100 Women-Led Businesses for the sixth consecutive year.


May Institute's school for students with brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders expands, moves to new campus in Norwood, Mass.

Opens May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Chicopee, Mass.


Named one of Massachusetts' Top 100 Women-Led Businesses for the seventh consecutive year.


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May Institute does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, sex/gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, military status, veteran status, genetic information, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, marital status, socioeconomic status, homelessness, or any other category protected under applicable law in treatment or employment at the Institute, admission or access to the Institute, or any other aspect of the educational programs and activities that the Institute operates. The Institute is required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (Age Act), and their respective implementing regulations at 34 C.F.R. Parts 100, 104, 106 and 110, not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin (Title VI); disability (Section 504); sex (Title IX); or age (Age Act). Inquiries concerning the application of each of these statutes and their implementing regulations to the Institute may be referred to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, at (617) 289-0111 or 5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor, Boston, MA 02109-3921, or to Terese Brennan - Compliance Officer, at 1-888-664-9870 or Compliance@mayinstitute.org or May Institute 14 Pacella Park Drive, Randolph, MA 02368.