SASSNA is a California public benefit nonprofit corporation, and is state and federally (501c3) tax exempt. We are an alliance of, primarily, families of mentally-diverse youth, but also include professionals, mentally-diverse adults, and other individuals interested in our cause.


Our History

The Sacramento Autistic Spectrum and Special Needs Alliance (SASSNA) was established by behavior analyst and disability advocate Dave Gaines in 2011. Dave is on the autistic spectrum and has obsessive-compulsive disorder. SASSNA's original board of directors consisted of Dave, two parents of mentally-diverse children, an autistic adult, and an adult with Fragile X. This group, with Dave as CEO, built SASSNA into an operating nonprofit corporation. Hard work and grassroots fundraising allowed for a small budget, and for SASSNA to complete its legal and structural framework. SASSNA also began providing limited services. Everyone involved with SASSNA was still a volunteer at this point.

2013 was an intensive year for SASSNA. The organization expanded its activities to include more significant fundraising efforts, service delivery and community outreach. The first employee was hired - Dave Gaines. And the board of directors changed significantly.

SASSNA, with still only a small budget, is now very busy providing services and growing.

Our People

Board of Directors



  • David Colby

  • Hannah Shelton

The board of directors can be reached by e-mail at


Corporate Officers

Dave Gaines | Chief Executive Officer


Dave founded the Sacramento Autistic Spectrum and Special Needs Alliance in 2011. He runs the day-to-day operations of the organization and shares the ultimate decision-making regarding SASSNA with his fellow board directors. Dave has a bachelor's degree in philosophy, and graduate-level education in psychology and applied behavior analysis. He has over a decade of experience in the mental health field, primarily providing behavior analysis services. Most of his work experience has been with autistic and similar youth of all ages, but he also has experience with youth and adults with other diagnoses and without any diagnoses. In addition, Dave is a passionate advocate, both professionally and personally. He focuses on disability advocacy, primarily mental disabilities, but believes in equality and diversity among all people.

Philong Huynh | Treasurer and Corporate Secretary

Philong recently graduated from Sacramento State University as a double major, receiving a bachelor’s degree in history and biology. He is planning to attend medical school in the future. Until then, he joined SASSNA in order to serve mentally-diverse youth and he is training with SASSNA to become a special education advocate. He has always cared about children and he has an immense passion for helping disadvantaged children, and their families, succeed in life. He firmly believes that everyone deserves a chance to achieve to their dreams and to live life embracing the uniqueness of their individuality.


Volunteer staff

Christopher Medley | Assistant

Hannah Shelton | Assistant


Justin Shimizu | Assistant