Employee Spotlight: Verna Birch

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

It’s not Verna’s first time in the Employee Spotlight but if you know her, you understand why that is. In her work as a clinical assistant, Verna is a shining example of the excellent standards we choose to uphold at Spectrum.

Verna has always had a strong passion to help others and maximize the individual potential of her clients. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine. She has experience working in the medical and human services fields. She has worked as a Registered Behavior Technician since 2015. 

She began her career providing one-on-one direct services to children on the spectrum in home, community and clinic settings in San Diego, California. Her family relocated to Virginia in 2017, where she continues her work as an RBT with Spectrum Autism Services. She is a military spouse and has vast experience working with and serving the military community.  

She cherishes each of her clients and their families and constantly seeks to make a meaningful, positive difference in their lives. Currently Verna is pursuing her Masters degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis.

We are grateful for Verna each day for her continual effort and impact on her clients! Thank you for all that you do!

Happy Father’s Day

Today is a day to show our appreciation and thanks for the dedicated fathers, especially those with children on the spectrum. Thank you for your patience, your commitment and your understanding; life would not be the same if not for all you do for us.

On this Father’s day, we wanted to share a heartwarming article published by author Ron Fournier about the lessons he learned being a father to a child with autism.

Click here to read the article.

“I love my son—not despite of his autism, but because of it. What makes Tyler and other people with Asperger’s syndrome unique also makes them a model for the rest of us. Their hyper-literal mind-sets make honesty as much a part of their nature as breathing. While he has a hard time expressing empathy, Tyler may be one of the most caring people I know.”

Inspiring Messages from Autism Dads

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, we’d like to pay tribute to all the amazing fathers of children on the spectrum. Their work is hardly ever forgotten but this week we want to show them a little extra appreciation for everything they do.

Today we want to showcase this touching article published by autismspeaks.org. Five amazing dads sharing their experiences raising children with autism and how it changed them as parents.

“On this Father’s Day, I would like to salute the dads who every day fight the good fight to make the lives of their children and other children, on the spectrum, the best they could possibly be.” – Jeff McCafferty


Visits to the Doctor’s Office

Most of us don’t look forward to doctor’s appointments! Even the promise of a sticker or lollipop may not be enough to overcome our fears. Now, imagine you experience feelings of intense anxiety when confronted with new people and places, have sensory processing difficulties, and trouble communicating. These added hurdles can make a doctor’s visit especially daunting for kids with ASD and their parents.

Living in the time of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to prepare ourselves and our children for interactions with health care providers. Below you will find a few strategies we use to prepare children and families for upcoming visits.

One example of a social story
  1. Social Stories

What are they? Social stories are a fun and creative way to teach kiddos new skills and prepare them for upcoming events. Basically, they are how-to manuals for children with ASD.

Tips for Success

The more you read the more you know. By going over the story on the days and weeks leading up to the visit, your child will have a better understanding of what to expect. This will help decrease anxiety and reduce the likelihood of tantrums and meltdown.

Bring the social stories or other helpful visuals with you to the doctor’s office! Many children with ASD benefit from visual explanations more than verbal. Plus, what better way to generalize what was learned then by reading the story again during the appointment. Following the story as the appointment progresses will help prepare the kiddo for whatever comes next.

There are many examples of social stories that can be used and here are some we recommend:

  1. Doctor Kit

The best way to prepare your child for the unexpected is to practice what is expected! One of our favorite ideas is to play with a toy doctor kit. Bonus, this is also a great way to work on those pretend play skills! The more you play, the better prepared they will be for the actual visit. Remember to make it fun!

Tips for Success

Act out likely scenarios, for example:

  • Put on the stethoscope and pretend you are listening to your child’s favorite stuffed animals’ heartbeat.
  • Use the blood pressure cuff on the family pet and show that even animals can be a part of the fun.
  • Practice using a tongue depressor. First, eat a piece of candy (keep the color a secret). Then, have the child use the tool to investigate and determine the color.

Take turns being the doctor and patient. Remember to be brave when they give you that shot!

If there are other children in the home, get them involved too. Children are more comfortable with people they know. Practicing with familiar people in familiar places will make this less scary in a real-world scenario.

  1. Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce

Going to the doctor’s office is scary for most children, but remember, practice makes progress… not perfect. Some appointments will be harder than others.

  • Break up the visit into smaller, reinforceable steps such as playing quietly in the waiting room or standing on the scale.
    • After each step, reinforce, whether that means providing praise such as Good Job! or rewarding them with a piece of candy.
    • Make the visit a positive experience. Sing songs or bring a game to play with them while waiting.
    • Remember that your child accomplished something just by walking into the door of that office!

We hope these suggestions take some of the stress out of upcoming doctor’s appointments! Be sure to grab an extra lollipop or sticker on the way out of the office. You deserve a pat on the back for being brave too.