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Our Story

Based on the principles of ABA therapy, and adapted for the classroom, Language Builder: Academic Readiness Intervention System ... or ARIS for short... combines the trusted Language Builder Picture Card sets with 3D manipulatives, detailed lesson plans, black-line masters for various activity sheets, a system for record-keeping, and custom home communication forms, for the most complete Early Autism Education curriculum available today.

With all of these materials conveniently assembled in place, you have the most organized and easy-to-implement early autism education classroom kit available. Language Builder ARIS lets you spend less time planning lessons and searching for materials, and more time teaching!

In 1993, Angela Nelson was a psychology major at UCLA. Midway through the quarter, 2 graduate students gave a presentation to her Behavioral Psychology class. The title: How Behavior Psychology Applies to Teaching Children with Autism. In conclusion they pitched a second-quarter class and internship where you could get hands-on experience working directly with kids. As a 21 year old, whose only job experience included Taco Bell and Denny’s, Angela found the opportunity to actually work in her chosen field of study enticing. 

It's hard to remember a time when autism wasn’t a common diagnosis, but in 1993, with the rate of diagnosis at about 3 in 10,000, most people’s sole exposure to autism was through the movie, Rain Man. There were no tools or materials created specifically to meet the educational needs of children with autism, so Angela... and everyone else… spent hours creating their own materials. This usually meant cutting pictures out of magazines, catalogs, and advertisements (yes, the ads still came in the mail back then) and gluing them to 3x5 cards. 

Angela seemed to have a knack for kindergarten-level arts and crafts, so pretty soon other therapists and families were asking her 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. She quite literally interrupted the conversation of two strangers and asked them to explain this contraption. The next day, armed with a phone book, Angela started calling printers.

A few months later, Angela started teaching a 4 year old with the brightest red hair you’ve ever seen, named David. The first time Angela visited David’s house she saw the beautiful photography work done by his mother, Karen French. Karen is an amazing talented wedding photographer in Huntington Beach, CA. Not more than a few minutes passed before Angela launched into an excited rambling about her flashcard package. 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.

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LB Evolution

Stages 1st product was the Language Builder Picture Cards, released in 1997. Since that point more than 150,000 Language Builder Picture Noun Cards have made their way into homes and schools, to help children with autism learn basic language skills. 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 in Stages 23 year history 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. These tools create 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 toward the end of 2020, rounding out our complete, adoptable classroom curriculum, which will transform early autism education.

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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.