Grand Opening Extravaganza

What a wonderful last few weeks we have had at Spectrum Autism Services! We are so grateful for the Stafford community for welcoming us with open arms and for supporting the opening of our clinic!

In addition to providing one on one ABA therapy, our clinic, located at 35 Walpole St #204 in Stafford, Virginia, also offers both Full Day and Half Day Programs for children ages 2-5.

Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Registered Behavior Therapists, and certified teachers will develop individualized programs for your little one with ASD.

Spectrum Autism Services: Clinic Grand Opening!

We are excited to announce the opening of our new office space and Spectrum Academy! We will have an open house on Wednesday, August 7th from 10am-6 pm. We would love for you to stop by, see Spectrum’s new home, and share some sweet treats!

Employee Spotlight: Emily Taylor

This month we are spotlighting a wonderful team member at Spectrum Autism Services!

Emily Taylor has always had a passion for working with children and helping them reach their potential. In 2016, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from James Madison University. She then began her career in the field of Autism in the school setting by providing both classroom-based and one-on-one services at a Special Education, Applied Behavior Analysis based school in Maryland.

In 2018, she moved to Fredericksburg where she became a part of the Spectrum family as a Registered Behavior Technician.

It wasn’t until joining Spectrum that Emily truly realized her calling for working in the field of ABA. She is currently enrolled at The University of Southern Maine in pursuit of a Master’s in Educational Psychology and Applied Behavior Analysis.

Emily is extremely excited to continue her education and to inspire others to find passion in working in the field of Autism! We are so lucky to have her on our staff.

Thank you for all that you do, Emily!

Teacher Appreciation Week: A Thank You List

This week we want to celebrate the amazing impact teachers (including paraprofessionals, school speech pathologists, and school occupational therapists) can make on our kiddos lives, especially those who work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Children with Autism have varying characteristics that, as parents and therapists, can transform us, challenge us, and teach us. We understand the often unrealized desire to put our own needs on the back-burner to dive head first in caring for those with atypical needs. We hope that as you do one of the most important professions, teaching and preparing our youth for social settings and their futures, that you read our thank you list to re-boost your end of the year energy. And hopefully, you will understand a little bit more the incalculable gratitude we have for you that is oh-so-difficult to show on an everyday basis.

One of many fun sensory activities used by educators and therapists!
  • We want to thank the teachers who come in early, leave late, and often have to spend their own money to have adequate supplies, therapeutic/sensory materials, and even allergy friendly foods for their students.
  • We want to thank the teachers in our kiddos lives who take the extra five minutes at the end of an exhausting workday to give our children that extra interaction.
  • We want to thank the teachers who redirect our children with ASD in the classroom with loving grace instead of frustration.
  • We want to thank the teachers who look at our children with ASD and feel an outpouring of empathy that is visible and palpable in your daily interactions with them.
  • We want to thank the teachers that find something in common with our children with ASD and capitalize on it by generating discussions, activities, or feelings of belonging to those that don’t always fit in.
  • We want to thank the teachers who create lessons plans with our differentiated learners in mind, and do so with excitement to help them learn in a way not typical to the traditional classroom.
  • We want to thank the teachers who make it a vital importance to implement IEP accommodations, and do so out of a heartfelt desire to make an often uncomfortable child that much more comfortable in a social setting.
  • We want to thank the teachers that take our children with ASD out of a stressful situation and into a hallway or place of safety while a meltdown occurs, so that our child will not be taunted by peers for an uncontrollable event.
  • We want to thank the teachers who treat the parents of children with ASD with amicable fellowship, and are not irritated by our sometimes fretful emails, but instead take the time to reassure us of situations.
  • We want to thank the teachers of those with ASD for making an impact on our child’s lives in a way we sometimes cannot. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, and the truth in that is some days you have as much affect on the lives of our children as we do.
  • We want to thank the teachers who remove our children from harmful situations, both social and towards themselves, with the care of a loving guardian.
  • We want to thank the teachers who show up, day in day out, tired or well rested, stressed or relaxed, happy or emotional, and STILL find a way to have an uplifting, impactful, and compassionate school day. Your effort will never go unnoticed, even if our thanks some days goes unsaid.
From the bottom of our hearts and the depths of our souls, we thank you.

Teaching to Handle with Care when Working with Children with ASD

Handle with Care provides teaching strategies for those working with the behaviorally challenged population. The goal of Handle with Care is to ensure a safe and nurturing environment.

By teaching and implementing preventative actions that decrease the need for physical restraints, Handle with Care equips parents, ABA professionals, school teachers and many other professionals proper restraining techniques for the event that a restraint is absolutely necessary for the safety of a client or student.

Handle with Care believes that if staff work in fear and do not feel personally safe, then there can be no emotional safety whatsoever as fear will be the controlling emotion. 

Similarly, if the client cannot trust the staff to keep them unharmed and treat them fairly, they will not trust the staff or therapists to teach and provide the therapy they need.

Handle With Care is committed to the emotional and physical safety of behaviorally challenged individuals whose behavior may become harmful to themselves or others and the staff and organizations that support them.

In this video, Faith demonstrates how to responsibly remove yourself from an approach to then calm a client/child.

At Spectrum Autism Services, Faith Martino, one of our Clinical Assistants, and Abby Hawkins, our Office Manager, are trained to teach the employees of our company proper prevention, de-escalation techniques, and also proper restraining techniques.

A Handle with Care course is provided annually at Spectrum Autism Services to re-certify staff as well as certify newly joined staff. We believe that handling our kiddos with respect, despite the difficult emotional behaviors they sometimes exude, is not only morally fair, but paramount to teaching them the successful behavioral therapy they deserve.

Schools and facilities that use Handle With Care see on average a 30-40% reduction in injuries and incidents.

Handle with Care training addresses problematic behavior early in the cycle, thus reducing the number of incidents, injuries, holding times and assaults on staff, teachers, clients, private parties and students.

The following reviews convey the positive impact of implementing Handle with Care (HWC) protocol in professional environments:

For more information about Handle with Care, visit their website at

The Advantages of The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) Behavioral Therapy

The Early Start Denver Model is based on the methods used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy and has demonstrated remarkable results in infants and toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are excited to provide you with an informative post regarding the data-proven benefits of using ESDM versus non ESDM behavioral therapy approaches. ESDM is one of the few approaches of early intervention used with infants and toddlers (12-48 months) that has conclusive data support.

The Necessity of Interaction

Autism often affects young children through a lack of desire for interacting with others. This difference is not a disability in itself, but considering how every interaction an infant has stimulates learning and brain function, those children not seeking out an adequate amount of social interaction do not gain valuable social and communication skills and form critical neural pathways at the same pace as those infants whom have the desire to socially interact.

Young children learn from social interactions of all kinds. If social interaction is less exciting than toys to infants with ASD, then there will be more competing environmental variables when attempting to engage (such as television or any interesting toy). Therefore, Autism could be seen as preventing the child’s desire to engage with others, which begins a domino effect of fewer opportunities to learn social cues and will affect future social interactions.

Another point to consider is that play skills are not a natural born ability. They are learned based off engagement with older siblings, parents, daycare workers etc. Pretend play provides vital building blocks for social interactions, and by utilizing the Early Start Denver Model, it provides a myriad of beneficial engagements for children with ASD.

Maximizing Opportunities to Learn

The Early Start Denver Model focuses on creating social experiences that have the child with ASD actively engaged in the family’s social activities. Tasks that could appear as normal everyday routines actually have the capability to engage the child with ASD and provide learning opportunities. These activities are as simple as grocery shopping, diaper changes, going down a slide, taking a walk, and even feeding pets. These are important activities where children can learn, and ESDM emphasizes the importance of parents coaching their children as well. 

The Data

Research by Geri Dawson in 2010 demonstrates the success of using the Early Start Denver Model in a controlled trial. There were 48 children with ASD between the ages of 18 months and 30 months. The groups were divided into those engaging in 15 hours per week of ESDM as well as additional parent coaching, and the others using community intervention that was available in the city of Seattle at the time. Both groups had similar amounts of time in therapy each week. The children also all had similarly matched IQs at the beginning of the trial, around 60, which is a typical range for children of that age with ASD.

One year later, the children receiving ESDM gained about 17 IQ points on average, compared to the children in the comparison community group that did not include ESDM, gained about 5. The children in the ESDM group increased their IQs so much (to 80) that they no longer fell under the range of intellectual disability.

However, the same is not true for Autism severity, as ADOS scores indicate how much of a gain they can make. The children with more severe autism in the ESDM group did better than the children with severe autism in the community group, but they did not have nearly as high of IQ gain as the children with milder autism to begin with. Neverthless, the ESDM treatment still showed gains with children with severe ASD.

Earlier studies along with Geri’s came to the same conclusion: children receiving a variety of interventions do not tend to make as much progress as children who receive a highly focused, and carefully manualized and organized intervention like ESDM.

Another breakthrough for ESDM was that children in the ESDM group also showed similar responses to typical developing children when it came to brain responses to faces. They proved to have faster and stronger electrical brain responses to faces (a discovery acknowledged in Time Magazine) than they did to toys.

The community group proved to still have stronger brain responses to toys than to faces of people.

The Early Start Denver Model has revolutionized ABA therapy, and we hope this informative blog post has given you a greater insight into its effectiveness. Feel free to comment with any questions, comments or additional experiences pertaining to the Early Start Denver Model!

Infant Eye Tracking & ASD

The Infant Sibling Network (IBIS) is an organization that conducts early brain research. They primarily focus on children born into families with an older sibling who has ASD in order to find potential early signs of ASD manifesting in a younger sibling.

In 2018 they conducted an eye tracking study to measure how young children shifted their gaze towards objects placed in front of them. They studied how and when their gaze was shifted, and the duration between the object’s appearance and the first sign of movement of the eye. To do this, they used MRI to assess the brain structure and function, and clinical assessments involving infants.

They discovered that “7-month-olds who went on to develop ASD were slower to shift their attention from one object to another when compared to 7‐month‐olds who did not develop ASD. Slow eye gaze shifts are believed to make it more difficult for the infant to learn about their environment, placing them at risk for developmental delays.”

They have related that slower shifting of the gaze correlates with the maturity of the “corpus callosum.” The corpus callosum connects the right and left halves of the brain through fibers, transferring the synapses between both sides of the brain.

“The sharing of information between both halves of the brain helps with shifting of eye gaze and attention. Using MRI, we were able to show that the corpus callosum was immature in 7-month-old infants who later were diagnosed with ASD. This finding is consistent with other MRI studies in older youth with ASD that show abnormalities in the brain’s “wiring.” However, prior to our IBIS studies it was not known to occur at such a young age.”

“This research is important because it pinpoints a specific brain circuit that is developing atypically very early in life, prior to the child showing outward signs and symptoms of ASD. This early marker for ASD within the biology of the child (a “biomarker”) could be very helpful for earlier detection of ASD when combined with other biomarkers. All early detection markers are important for guiding the development of early treatments. Thus, our team is hopeful that these findings may lead to earlier diagnoses, intervention, and subsequent improved outcomes for individuals with ASD.”

Early intervention is critical for children with ASD. It is our hope that studies conducted by organizations like the Infant Sibling Network will lead to earlier diagnoses and early treatment!

For the full article posted on the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital Center for Autism Research blog age, click here.