May Institute

Our History

When May Institute was founded in 1955, very little was known about autism, and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other special needs were often institutionalized for life.

Our organization's founders, Dr. Jacques May and his wife, Marie Anne, had twin boys with autism and a vision of enabling their sons, 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 children and adults with ASD and other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs at more than 140 locations across the country.

“We have come a long way in the past 60 years, and are very pleased to be celebrating six decades of making progress possible for individuals of all ages with a variety of needs,” says May Institute President and CEO Lauren C. Solotar, Ph.D., ABPP. “Through the years, we have been tireless advocates for individuals with special needs, building high quality programs, schools, and community-based residences where they can achieve their highest potential.”

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 $103M. It has increased its staff from 1,265 to nearly 2,000, and expanded its programming to include service locations in more than a dozen states. Today, we provide evidence-based services to more than 6,000 individuals and their families each year. 

Over the past decade, May Institute opened 10 new Centers to serve both military and civilian families who have children with ASD and other developmental disabilities. “As we have with other underserved populations, we identified a pressing need for autism services in military communities and made the necessary operational decisions required to begin addressing that need,” says Dr. Solotar.

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 include:

  • 1955     Opens first school for children with autism in Chatham, Mass.

  • 1978     Appoints Walter P. Christian, Ph.D., as Executive Director; Dr. Christian led the organization for 35 years, until his retirement in 2012

  • 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

  • 1994     Opens first early intervention program for young children in South Hadley, Mass.

  • 1997     Featured in the book In Search of America’s Best Nonprofits (Jossey-Bass)

  • 1998     Selected as state-wide specialty provider in Massachusetts for intensive early intervention specialty services

  • 2000     Implements Positive Schools program in multiple urban school districts

  • 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

  • 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

  • 2009     National Autism Center completes the National Standards Report - the most   comprehensive analysis of treatments for ASD ever published

  • 2009     Opens new autism center in North Carolina to serve military and civilian families
  • 2009     Newest Day Habilitation program for adults with special needs opens in Massachusetts

  • 2010     Opens new autism center in Tennessee to serve military and civilian families
  • 2010     The U.S. Government’s Combined Federal Campaign names May Institute as a beneficiary

  • 2010     National Autism Center publishes manual for educators, Evidence-Based Practice and Autism in the Schools.

  • 2011     National Autism Center publishes autism manual for families
  • 2011     Opens new autism center in Savannah, Ga., to serve military and civilian families

  • 2012     May Center school in Randolph, Mass., opens the Todd Fournier Center for Employment Training and Community Inclusion

  • 2013     Appoints Dr. Lauren C. Solotar as President and Chief Executive Officer
  • 2013     Opens new autism center in the Washington D.C., area to serve military and civilian families
  • 2015     May Institute celebrates its 60th anniversary.
  • 2015     The National Autism Center completes the National Standards Project, Phase 2 - a new review of autism interventions across the lifespan.
  • 2015    The National Autism Center at May Institute publishes Evidence-based Practice and Autism in the Schools, 2nd Edition.

  • 2015    May Institute receives a bequest of nearly $900,000 from the estate of the late Janet Wright Charlton O'Connor; establishes first endowment fund.

  • 2016    In collaboration with Work, Inc., May Institute opens the Center for Integrated Adult Autism Services.

  • 2016    May Institute launches its Shared Living Program, a residential option for adults with autism, intellectual disabilities, or acquired brain injury.