The New England Center for Children and Simmons University Celebrate 30 Years of Special Education Partnership

More Than 1,200 NECC Staff Earned Master’s Degree from Simmons University Applied Autism Research Graduate Program.

Southborough, MA, November 30, 2022 --( This fall marks 30 years since The New England Center for Children® (NECC®), a global leader in autism education and research, has been partnering with Simmons University to train the next generation of autism educators and researchers. NECC, whose commitment to the professional development and education of its employees has been a cornerstone of its mission, offers full-time staff a free on-site master’s degree program from Simmons University. Since 1992, 1,270 NECC employees have earned degrees through this partnership and enhanced the quality of special education in Massachusetts and beyond.

“A cornerstone of The New England Center for Children’s mission, and one of its core values, is training and developing the next generation of autism educators and researchers,” said Dr. Jessica Sassi, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, executive director of NECC. “The Simmons partnership with NECC is truly a tremendous opportunity for NECC employees to receive a $50,000 degree at no cost. It not only furthers their professional and academic experience but ensures they disseminate their knowledge when serving students with autism, whether it be locally or globally.”

All courses are taught on-site at NECC in Southborough and provide staff practical training and experience, enabling them to have a wide variety of job offers in both public schools and private agencies upon completion of the program.

During the last 30 years, the Simmons program at NECC has grown to serve the organization’s many facets. In 2019, Simmons added the autism specialization to its degree to reflect the program’s autism-focused coursework and the graduate students’ field-based experiences using applied behavior analysis (ABA) with the autism population at NECC. Once students complete the autism specialization program, they have the option to continue with a post-master’s degree program in ABA through Western New England University, which is offered on-site at NECC and at a discounted rate.

“We are so proud of our staff who have completed their degrees from Simmons University,” said Chris Evans, professor of practice and the graduate program director for Simmons University at NECC. This past year, 38 staff received their Master of Science in Education with an autism specialization designation. “They completed their degrees while working tirelessly for their students amid a pandemic and workforce shortage. Their fortitude and determination are admirable, and further exemplifies the positive impact they will each have in the field of special education and teaching.”

Hundreds of NECC staff alumni who have graduated from the Simmons master’s program have gone on to make a difference in the field of autism education, both in the U.S. and across the world. For example, Kerri Brown, MSEd, BCBA, co-founded ABA Helps in January 2021. Brown serves as Chief Clinical Officer of the behavioral health agency that is committed to providing in-home, in-person care to children ages 2 through 22. And Whitney Hammel Anny, MSEd, BCBA, IBA, LBA, took her NECC experience and Simmons education to Accra, Ghana, where she is now co-founder and executive director of Autism Compassion Africa.

International and Virtual Expansion

In the fall of 2021, Simmons was approved to begin its first international program at the Mohamed bin Rashid Center for Special Education operated by The New England Center for Children (MRC-NECC) in Abu Dhabi as well as for staff at NECC’s Clinic in Dubai, offering a master’s degree to their local teachers. This fall, Simmons has once again expanded its offerings to include more NECC employees, creating fully virtual master’s and post-master’s programs to serve staff who work for NECC’s partner program public schools throughout New England.

For more information on NECC’s graduate programs, please visit the

About The New England Center for Children

The New England Center for Children® (NECC®) is an award-winning autism education center and research institute. Committed to creating a world where autism is not a barrier to happiness, growth, and independence, our community of teachers, researchers, and clinicians provide comprehensive services including day and residential programs, partner classrooms in public school systems, consulting services, and the ACE® ABA Software System (

NECC is committed to creating an equitable workplace for our diverse team and providing industry-leading staff professional development opportunities, specifically with our on-campus graduate degree partnership programs. The result is a growing pool of autism educators and researchers that impact the lives of children with autism both at NECC and around the world. The New England Center for Children is based in Southborough, MA, and operates a center in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Learn more at
The New England Center for Children
Kim Ruscitti
(508) 481-1015 x3288