Our Founders' Story

SARRC was formed in 1997 from a support group comprised primarily of mothers with newly diagnosed children.

Two Dedicated Mothers and their Pediatrician

The Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) was founded by two dedicated mothers of children with autism, Denise Resnik and Cindy Schneider, along with their developmental pediatrician, Raun Melmed. The three met regularly at a Paradise Valley coffee shop, sharing their frustrations, setbacks, and triumphs as they dealt with this difficult and perplexing disorder amid conflicting messages from healthcare providers and a lack of meaningful support. Thus, SARRC was born in 1997 out of the need for an organization that could provide better answers and more reliable, comprehensive support for families affected by autism spectrum disorder. 

A Virtual Research Center

Operating out of their homes, businesses, and medical offices, SARRC's co-founders began their endeavor as a virtual research center that not only answered questions about autism, but questioned the answers. The center and its community of followers quickly expanded as other parents and families embraced the insight, information, and hope they'd been seeking.

Gained Momentum Quickly

Over just 18 months, SARRC quickly gained momentum as an organization, expanding its reach and embarking on actual research projects. In 1998, we opened our first 1,800-square-foot facility at 10th Street and McDowell Road. It took only another 18 months for SARRC to outgrow that space and add 4,000 square feet to the facility. As its physical structure took shape, so, too, did its internal structure. A mission statement was developed, core values were defined, and early intervention programs were mapped out.

Initial Guiding Principles

For SARRC, the initial guiding principles still hold true today:

  • Advocate the need for research into autism.
  • Educate families on best practices and evidence-based therapies.
  • Obey medicine’s cardinal rule regarding new interventions: “First, do not harm.”

Early Achievements

By 1999, just two years after its founding, SARRC had developed a series of educational workshops for parents, educators and students; began worldwide collaborations; established a database of families; and participated in the first clinical trial of secretin to treat autism. Today, we continue our unique work answering questions and questioning answers, all while seeking to better support and serve people with autism spectrum disorder and their families.