About NEARI

Building Strong Relationships
and Successful Students

NEARI’s Mission: We help each student find the best ways to learn, relate, communicate effectively, and make a difference in the world.

NEARI was founded in 1986 by Steven Bengis, Ed.D., LCSW, and Penny Cuninggim, Ed.D., MAT, MSW, along with eleven veteran professionals who had all worked together in another school program for six years. By integrating best practices in both education and treatment, NEARI School offers students from 7 to 22 an opportunity to succeed by promoting relationships, mastery, self-advocacy, and self-empowerment skills while nourishing individual strengths.

Our history of success is based on four key elements:
  • A highly trained, professional, and caring staff who a) understand the complex and unique needs of each learner and b) as colleagues in a staff-centered agency, play the major role in educational and treatment decisions
  • A behavior-management approach based on working with student strengths and the beliefs that a) all children can learn and succeed beyond their wildest dreams and b) if learning isn’t fun it isn’t learning
  • A warm and inviting environment where students love to come to school
  • Leading-edge educational and treatment practices
The NEARI School Services:
  • Tailored learning and treatment plans
  • A brain-based assessment process that results in a comprehensive set of strategies for teaching, communicating with, and counseling each student, based on norm-referenced measurements, observation, and the latest research regarding “how the brain learns best”
  • Individualized learning readiness support to address underlying neuro-development weaknesses
  • Speech and language, occupational and physical therapies
  • Rich and data-driven academic curricula
  • Psychiatric, psychological, and nursing consultation
  • In-house psychotherapy and counseling
  • Multi-modal instruction, experiential and project-based learning, and a variety of extracurricular activities and electives
  • A commitment to creating learning environments, which promote relaxed and alert minds, whole-body immersion of the brain in content and opportunities for peer-to-peer dialogue.
  • A transitional program for school-to-work or to post-secondary education that focuses on community job placement and individual mentoring
Geographic Areas Served:
  • Hampden County
  • Hampshire County
  • Parts of Franklin, Worcester and Berkshire Counties


School Stats:
Student to Staff ratio 3:1
Grades 3 – 12 (ages 7-22)
Current Enrollment: 40-45 students
School Calendar: 12-month (220 days)