Vinnie Strully was first inspired to work with children when he was a youth, spending his summers at camp. He had a knack for leading groups, teaching, and bringing people together to solve problems.
After college, Vinnie worked at Spaulding Yourth Center in New Hampshire. Around 1974, Vinnie and several colleagues envisioned a better response to autism than the permanent institutionalization that was common at the time. Massachusetts had recently passed IDEA – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – and Vinnie saw the opportunity to have a greater impact on more children. With a $30,000 grant from the state and a room on the grounds of the Taunton State Hospital, the first NECC classroom was born.
Working with 6 children with autism, Vinnie learned that an educational approach rooted in science and based on positive reinforcement was key to helping students learn to communicate, to control their own behavior, and to develop the life skills that would allow many to live productive, semi-independent lives.
The school went through several name changes as it expanded its focus from a classroom to a center-based research and teaching institute. Today, we serve over 600 students in our center-based programs, and thousands more through our ACE® curriculum. While nearly half of our students are non-verbal, and many exhibit severe behavioral challenges, we know that our caring, student-focused model, rooted in the science of applied behavior analysis (ABA), works.