The mission of the Neurodiversity Education Research Center (NERC) is to equip and prepare students for an emerging 21st Century global workforce. We will accomplish our mission through research-based teaching and learning strategies, high-performance standards, and sensory integration including behavioral, speech, and occupational support.
NERC is growing into the premier education center for high-quality researched-based practices to support neurodiverse students and autistic young adults transitioning into the workforce.
Our partners include computer science curriculum developers, universities & community colleges, a variety of companies and other businesses, vocational rehabilitation providers, education institutes, K-12 schools and social-emotional counselors and mental health therapists.
The vision of the Neurodiversity Education Research Center is based on our belief that neurodiverse individuals can succeed in fulfilling careers. We are building the neurodiverse workforce of the future by providing opportunities for academic, physical, social, and emotional growth through teaching and learning that builds on the unique aptitude and skills of neurodiverse individuals. We help to develop and support neurodiverse individuals and future employees through research-based teaching and learning strategies, high-performance standards, and sensory integration including behavioral, speech, and occupational support.
The story behind the Neurodiversity Education Research Center
In August 2017, neurodiversity and STEM education expert Kenneth Mims launched Science Prep Academy, a private middle & high school focused on STEM, career, and technical education for 6th-8th grade autistic students. Under the auspices of Better Autism Schools for Arizona, Mr. Mims and the founding board established Science Prep Academy in response to extensive research and data confirming the lack of academic, social-emotional developmental support in Metro Phoenix for autistic people. This research confirmed low expectations and limited career options for neurodiverse students which spurred school leaders’ determination to open new doors to opportunity in the classroom and the workforce for these students.
Science Prep Academy’s strategy evolved from the early days of our founder’s work with students with autism in partnership with the Autism Society of Metro Phoenix. He recruited a team of autistic students for a FIRST LEGO League competition, which introduces hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to children ages 4-16. Contest participants gain real-world problem-solving experience which grows their critical thinking, coding, and design skills through hands-on STEM learning and robotics. While parents attended workshops, Mr. Mims established the nation's first FIRST LEGO team made up of autistic middle school students and taught them how to build and program a LEGO Mindstorm robot. These early interactions provided critical insight and guidance on effective teaching strategies and behavioral supports needed to achieve his vision of establishing schools and supporting educators in preparing students with autism for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Better Autism Schools for Arizona, Inc., an innovative STEM middle & high school for neurodiverse students in Phoenix, Arizona, expanded its mission and impact to transform the education and career opportunities available to autistic students or other diverse learning and thinking styles. We changed our name to the Neurodiversity Education Research Center and are strengthening our internal capacity and external relationships in order to provide critical technical assistance and insights to educators, employers and others invested in the success of neurodiverse individuals.
We envision NERC as an acceleration of the goals, strategies, and approach of Better Autism Schools for Arizona, Inc. The success of Science Prep Academy, now in its fifth year, inspired us to consider new strategies and partnerships to support young people with autism. Our vital technical assistance and experience with neurodivergent students has the potential to change the way they are prepared to be successful in school, in the STEM workforce, and other businesses seeking untapped sources of talent. Neurodivergent/autistic students who want to transition into the workforce benefit from research-based teaching strategies, curricula, and career preparation programs. Teaching strategies and workforce preparation programs embedded with social-emotional support reduces barriers to sustainable employment, which benefits the economy and our communities.
Meet The Board & The Team
Board of Directors
Yvonne Pipkin, Chair
Education Development Manager
RAL Education Consultants
Magdalena Saucedo, Secretary
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Romeo Clark, CPA, Treasurer
Founder & CEO
Agile Tech Accounting
Business Ops Associate Specialist
SAP Global Post Sales
Angier B Duke Scholar
Autism Support Program
Arizona State University
Nicole Kazan, MSW