Neurodiversity Education Research Center (NERC) seeks to transform education through innovative and research-based teaching and learning strategies for autistic students. The covid crisis magnified the inequities in special education in Arizona and nationwide. Every parent deserves access to high-quality, specialized education opportunities for their autistic child. Science Prep Academy is NERC’s flagship STEM private 6th -12th grade(s) mircoschool that has validated our innovative research-based education model.
Science Prep Academy opened its doors in August of 2017 to only seven students. Now, it is serving more students than ever before. Behind many of the day-to-day campus activities is Denise Amiot, Science Prep Academy’s Campus Director.
Amiot has been a part of the Science Prep Academy for two years now. With over 35 years of teaching experience and a Masters in Special Education at the University of Cincinnati, she has found a new home at Science Prep Academy.
“My favorite thing about Science Prep community is our family atmosphere,” said Amiot, “As we build our culture I want our families to know we are here to support not only their children, but them as well.”
She states how Science Prep Academy is filled with opportunities outside of academic areas that other schools may focus on. This includes physical education like partnering with Special Olympics and community building like transportation skills. This means going to colleges or vocational opportunities in the community.
One special program out of Science Prep Academy Amiot shares that helps promote growth from students outside the classroom is the FIRST LEGO team, where students build and program robotics for competition. It is programs like these that help promote mindful emotional support.
“We can keep working through these things so if a student has a struggle we can talk about it and ask what they think so it can be student led,” said Amiot.
Being on the administration side of the school, Amiot says her staff is one of the most giving staff she has had and always works together to solve anything that may come up. Especially celebrating every accomplishment that comes from the school.
“They give 110% everyday to make sure students are successful. That they are giving them choices and letting students make decisions,” said Amiot.
Believing in the children is what helps them believe in themselves said Amiot. She explains how the staff making sure students are heard and leading their own journey allows them to make sure they know they can be successful. It is not about what you can’t do, but what you can and what you can learn to achieve and embrace their differences.
One activity Amiot shares that really builds confidence withing students is their Neurodiversity Week, which is all about celebration neurodiversity. It allowed students to understand neurodiversity has been around for a long time and you can be successful no matter what. And she says that is what the staff at Science Prep Academy all strive to do on the daily.
“The staff here works so hard,” said Amiot, “We often say ‘Each child, each day, each way’. So whatever it takes we will help them be successful.”