Our Story

Stages Learning Materials

Founded 1997

Headquartered in Vista, CA


Over 1 million children served, and counting...

Angela Nelson was an undergraduate psychology major at UCLA when she began working with children with autism. In 1993 autism was a newly recognized diagnosis, and there were no tools or materials created specifically to meet the educational needs of children on the spectrum. So Angela spent hours creating her own materials by cutting pictures out of magazines, catalogs, and advertisements (yes, the ads still came in the mail back then) and gluing them to 3x5 cards.

Soon other therapists and families were asking Angela to make a set of “flashcards” for them. As the requests grew, Angela started photocopying the cards at Kinkos. After creating a couple hundred card sets like this she overheard someone talking about “offset press printing,” where you can print thousands of pieces with higher quality and less cost. The next day, armed with a phone book, Angela started calling printers.

Stages 1st BrochureA few months later, Angela started teaching a 4 year old with the brightest red hair you’ve ever seen, named David. David's mother, Karen French, is an amazing talented wedding photographer in Huntington Beach, CA. Not more than a few minutes passed before Angela began to tell Karen about her flashcard project.

Within a week Karen and Angela were planning their new business venture. Stages was officially born in Karen’s Photography office, and the two launched into months of taking pictures.

Stages 1st product was the Language Builder Picture Cards, released in 1997.

LB Evolution

Since that point, millions children with autism have benefited from Language Builder products. Over the years we have updated the images, making the switch from film to digital, and ensuring that kids are learning from the most recognizable, attractive, and updated pictures we can find.

In 2000, Angela bought out the full business, and started adding to the Language Builder line. Stages now offers 100’s of photo-based teaching tools, manipulatives, games, books, puzzles and posters, as well as a selection of apps and software, and a line of sensory seating and toys.

In addition to our print-based and physical autism education materials, Stages hosts a rich online resource with 100’s of articles, tools, lesson plans, research and reference materials. This original content is created in partnership with students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and features guest posts from the industry’s most respected professionals and influencers.

Perhaps the most exciting new phase for Stages is the development of the Language Builder Academic Readiness Intervention System (ARIS). ARIS pairs our full line of cards, manipulatives and games with 202 comprehensive, easy to follow lesson plans, as well as data-keeping sheets, home communication sheets, activity sheets, a behavior management system, assessments and an extensive implementation guide. Aris is the most complete Early Autism Education curriculum available today. The first ARIS lesson box was released in September of 2019 and has now seen a full year of testing, with extremely positive reviews. The 2nd lesson box will be released in early 2021, rounding out our complete classroom curriculum, to transform early autism education.


We look forward to many more decades of innovation to support the learning needs of children on the autism spectrum. We believe every child can learn and thrive. We believe information and tools empower teachers to support student learning at the highest level. We are committed to continued innovation in furtherance of equity and access to the best possible education for children on the autism spectrum.