Neurodiversity and Autism Research in Education Committee (NAREC)
Neurodiversity and Autism Research in Education Committee (NAREC)
NAREC's Mission and Goals:


  • Promote access to equitable and inclusive opportunities for neurodivergent and autistic individuals through understanding and specialized supports
  • Contextualize disability from a neurodiversity perspective 
  • Investigate intersections of autism and other identities, such as gender, class, race/ethnicities, and sexuality
  • Take a strength-focused approach to providing universally designed supports and remove socially constructed barriers to enhance quality of life 
  • Build education to employment pipelines
  • Foster self-awareness, self-efficacy, and self-esteem


  • Include the voices of neurodivergent and autistic individuals from across the lifespan as co-researchers 
  • Establish a community forum featuring research by neurodivergent and autistic scholars and their allies
  • Encourage researchers to use participatory research methods through synchronous and asynchronous sharing of resources and recommended practices
  • Highlight participatory scholarly research that has the potential to impact policy and practice
  • Foster conversations around research that aims to identify and address research to practice gaps around neurodiversity and autism
  • Learn from the voices of various stakeholders (including autistic individuals, families, professionals, employers, and community members) to better understand the needs in the field
  • Conduct neurodiversity and autism focused research that seeks to improve the well-being of autistic and neurodiverse people as defined by them 
  • Promote intervention research that is applicable to home, school, work and community settings 
NAREC Membership Meetings

Neurodiversity and Autism Research in Education (NAREC)

A Subcommittee of SIG #113

The Neurodiversity and Autism Research in Education Committee (NAREC) are enthusiastically planning  Zoom meetings for the upcoming academic year. At each meeting, we aim to focus on our vision and one of our committee goals.




Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023 4pm PT / 7pm ET 

  • During this session, the NAREC Leadership Committee explored the intricate aspects of neurodiversity, clarifying its distinctions from autism and tracking its evolving definitions
  • Our panel of NAREC neurodivergent and allistic experts shared personal examples of how we incorporate a neurodiversity perspective to shape our research inquiries, build our research teams, and enhance the design of our studies

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2023, at 4pm PT / 7pm ET 

  • At this meeting, we hosted a speed-dating networking activity where we could meet other NAREC and SIG113 members and engage in discussions around the following four questions:NAREC and SIG113 members and engage in discussions around the following four questions:
    1. What are your current research interests?
    2. As we look ahead to the next academic year, are there topics or themes that would be worthwhile for us, as a collective group, to engage with?
    3. In the past, we have typically had webinars with guest presenters. What other types of activities would you like to engage in during the NAREC meetings?
    4. What are your thoughts, successes, tensions, and/or big questions on the current state of autism research in educational contexts?

Wednesday September 20, 2022 4pm PST/ 7pm EST.

  • In this meeting we were joined by Dr. Brett Ranon Nachman, an Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas. Brett shared his research around disability, autism and higher education.
  • Participants were engaged in research findings and supported discussion and provided with take-away strategies to elevate autistic college student self-advocacy.  Thank you Dr. Nachman.

Wednesday June 1, 2022 4pm PST/ 7pm EST.

  • In this meeting we were joined by Dr. Patty Douglas, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brandon University, Manitoba. Thank you to Dr. Douglas for sharing with us her work via an engaging presentation entitled, Re-storying Autism at the Intersections: A Multimedia Storytelling Project.

Wednesday November 10, 2021 4pm PST/ 7pm EST. 

  • In this meeting we were joined by Dr. Vikram Jaswal, Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia, for a follow-up discussion of themes raised in his recent presentation at the  UC Davis Neurodiversity Summit.

Wednesday June 16, 2021 3pm PST/ 6pm EST

  • This meeting was a discussion style workshop in which members shared neurodiversity initiatives emrging within their K-12+ education settings.
  • Thank you participating committee members, for providing rich discussion points and ideas for supporting neurodivergent students and staff in our educational settings.

Wednesday February 15, 2021 4pm PST/ 7pm EST

  • This meeting will include small group networking and a Jamboard activity where we will engage with one another around our research interests. We plan to brainstorm topics of themes for further engagement and to share thoughts around the state of autism research in educational contexts. We value your input and hope you will plan to join us.

Wednesday October 28, 2020 3pm EST

  • During this meeting, we  focused on the committee's fourth goal; working together across research methodologies.
  • Thank you to Elizabeth Torres, Director of the NJ Autism Center of Excellence for sharing her transformative research emphasizing the motor aspects of autism and removing barriers to understanding delayed neurodevelopment.

Wednesday April 29th 2020 3pm EST  

  • During this meeting, we  focused on the committee's third goal; developing research to inform practice
  • Thank you to Kristie Asaro-Saddler and Matt Zajic for sharing their research insights and strategies on teaching writing to individuals on the autism spectrum

Wednesday February 5th 2020 3pm EST 

  • During this meeting we focused on the committee's second goal; promoting access to equitable opportunities.
  • Thank you Dr. Edlyn Pena (California Lutheran University) for sharing impactful research and experiences working with individuals who use methods other than speech to communicate. 

Wednesday October 2019  3pm EST  

  • During this meeting, we focused on the committee's first goal; collaboration through participatory research
  • Thank you to Dr.  Heather Brown (University of Alberta) for sparking an impactful discussion on participatory research and neurodiversity during our October 2019 meeting. 

Do you want to become a member of this subcommittee and receive information about upcoming events?

Register here via this Google Form

Click here to see a list of current members

Committee Leadership:


Dr. Heather M. Brown was initially trained as an elementary school teacher but is now an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. She is also an Autistic researcher passionate about supporting the academic achievement and overall well-being of Autistic children, youth and adults. Her research approach is community-based and participatory, empowering Autistic individuals to embrace their neurodiversity confidently and aims to understand the factors that most support their well-being at home, work and school. She currently serves as the director of the Autism, Neurodiversity and Academic Achievement (AIDAN) Lab as well as the chair of both the Neurodiversity and Autism Research in Education Committee (NAREC) for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and Autistic and Neurodivergent Scholars Working for Equity in Research (ANSWER) for the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P) Network at UCLA.





Dr. Matthew C. Zajic is an Assistant Professor of Intellectual Disability/Autism in the Health Studies & Applied Educational Psychology Department at Teachers College, Columbia University. He earned his PhD in Education (Learning and Mind Sciences) from the University of California, Davis and completed a predoctoral fellowship in psychometrics and assessment of special populations (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, US Department of Education) as well as a postdoctoral fellowship in autism and education (National Center for Special Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences). His research focuses on understanding and supporting the writing development of individuals on the autism spectrum, with specific attention to theory, measurement and assessment, and instruction. He is broadly interested in language and literacy development, educational and special educational practices, and lifespan perspectives to conceptualizing and measuring writing development. He teaches courses on assessment and evaluation in special education, writing development and instruction, and language and literacy development across neurodiverse populations.





Dr. Marisa Kofke is an Assistant Professor of Special and Inclusive/Disability Studies in Education in the Department of Education and Human Development at SUNY Brockport located near Rochester, New York. Her work resides at the intersection of Disability Studies in Education and Neurodiversity Studies with an intersectional focus on inclusive education for autistic and Neurodivergent students. She is a qualitative scholar who has completed research about autism at the intersection of gender, and presents her work at national and international conferences. Marisa teaches courses about inclusive education teaching practices. Her career began as a special educator working with autistic students at the Early Intervention and Middle School levels. She also has experience in wraparound services as a Behavior Specialist and worked with undergraduate students with Intellectual Disabilities participating in an inclusive college program. 



Committee Officers:

Dr. Kristie Asaro-Saddler is an Associate Professor in the Division of Special Education and the Division of Educational Psychology and Methodology at the University at Albany. Her research focuses on writing instruction and support for autistic students, with a focus on the self-regulatory components of writing, and supporting autistic students and their families from under-represented areas.  She has numerous publications in autism, special education and writing journals and has presented her works at international, national and regional conferences. She teaches courses on autism and effective practices for teachers of students with disabilities. Prior to joining the faculty at the University at Albany she was a special education teacher for children with autism and developmental disabilities.  




Dr. Amy Accardo is the founding director of the Center for Neurodiversity at Rowan University and an associate professor and co-chair of the Wellness and Inclusive Services in Education Department. Amy presently serves as a Principal Investigator of the Learning Resource Center- South. Her scholarly activities focus on promoting equitable education opportunities for autistic students and working with neurodiverse students, teachers, faculty, and staff to implement inclusive pedagogy and practices. She has published numerous articles and presents in person nationally on neurodiversity, autism and topics including college access, literacy, teacher preparation and mental health. Amy holds a master’s degree from Drexel University and a doctoral degree in special education from Arcadia University. She is co-author of the book College Success for Students on the Autism Spectrum: A Neurodiversity Perspective.





Graduate Student Chairs:

Juliette Gudknecht (MS) obtained her MS in Applied Statistics from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is now completing doctoral studies there in Special Education: ID/Autism. She also identifies as an autistic autism researcher. Juliette is presently an intern at the US Department of Education at IES and at the US Department of State under the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. She also worked for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where she helped create the federal government's Neurodiversity at Work program. Additionally, Juliette has also held previous internships at Geisinger, NASA, The US State Department, Authentic Social, Leda Health, PA Biotechnology Center, and was a research assistant at her undergraduate institution. 



Cassandra Olmstead (MA) is a PhD Candidate in the Learning Sciences and Educational Psychology at the University of Iowa. She has a minor in Disability studies as well as an MA in Cognitive Psychology. She is a neurodivergent person and the parent of disabled and neurodivergent children. Her research investigates barriers to inclusive and diverse learning environments, specifically when looking at the training and education we provide at the tertiary level, as well as in involving stakeholders in the identification of systemic barriers. She is specifically focused on the use of epistemic cognition tools to assist educators in identifying the root causes of ableist interactions, as a starting point for participatory action research to address those causes directly.