February 18th Employee Spotlight: Kristen Martin

Kristen Martin, B.S, RBT

This week we want to celebrate an amazing person who Spectrum feels privileged to call an employee!

Kristen’s career serving individuals with Autism began when her former foster son was diagnosed with Autism in 2013. Her passion was ignited and spurred a career in education.

During her undergraduate studies she served as an in-school tutor for children with cognitive and learning disabilities utilizing social and emotional interventions to improve classroom behavior.

In January 2018, Kristen moved from the school environment to in-home services working as an RBT. Kristen earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Liberty University and has completed graduate coursework in School Counseling at NYU as well as Education Policy at American University.

Kristen’s specialties include early intervention, verbal behavior, educational advocacy, social skills training, and community awareness. She is currently enrolled at Pennsylvania State University working towards a Master’s in Education in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Thank you for all that you do for your kiddos and fellow employees, Kristen!

The First Steps for Parents Following Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis

Has your child recently received an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis?

You might be experiencing a gamut of emotions. That is okay. We aren’t here to tell you how to feel, as we have been there too. But what we can tell you about are resources that work for us with our own children at our homes and with our clients.

“I know for me, I felt almost crazy for thinking something could be a little “off” about my child, because everyone else around me was saying ‘you’re just overthinking it’, or ‘all babies develop at their own pace’, or ‘this is your first child, so you just don’t know’…. I was relieved that I wasn’t just imagining things, I followed my gut, persisted, and was able to finally get him the help he needed.” 

-Melissa, a Spectrum employee and friend whose firstborn was diagnosed with ASD.

We understand that everyone responds differently to this news, so let’s begin by introducing you to a few of the resources we have used to successfully inform ourselves and clients.

Get every referral possible.

Studies prove that some young children have the ability to make drastic progress when Autism is found early and intervention occurs. Begin your journey by making an appointment with your child’s pediatrician and requesting referrals to a developmental Occupational Therapy, Speech, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Contact your community services board.

This resource has valuable information regarding early intervention services, providers within your area, connecting you with medicaid waivers (should your child qualify), disability resource centers, and local support groups to assist you through the process. That way, you don’t have to do all of the google searching yourself!

Ask Questions

Call around, ask questions, and set up assessments for services. Not every provider will be the perfect fit for your child, or your family, so you should evaluate the agencies as well.

Educate yourself

Learn as much as possible about Autism and what you can do to support your child. There will be a plethora of information that comes your way. Try to decide what methods work for your family. Autism treatment is not a “one size fits all”, so some of this journey will be trial and error, and that is okay.

The book below,  An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn, is a favorite resource of Nancy Daly, our CEO. It discusses research on how parents can play a pivotal role in helping their young children with ASD.

An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn by [Rogers, Sally J., Dawson, Geraldine, Vismara, Laurie A.]

Talk to your friends and family.

It is important to have a support group, not just for your child, but for you and our partner. Some family members or friends may not know how to handle the news, so communicate what you need or ways they can help. If they care, they will want to be encouraging in the ways that you and your family need. This process helps show you which people are going to be more reliable, and who you may want to distance yourself from. You are your child’s #1 advocate, and you need the people who are going to only work with you, not against you! 

There are many ways to navigate the ASD journey you are on. We hope that this blog post has provided you with a few ideas to point you in an informative, and hopefully helpful, direction.

Children with ASD and Chewing

Many children chew and/or mouth inedible objects (ie: necklaces, toys, clothing). This behavior is especially common amongst children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as it is an effective way to self regulate. The oral sensory input provided can also promote attention to a task, relieve anxiety, reduce fear and combat  sensory overload. 

We advise parents not to treat “Stimming”, self stimulatory behaviors such as chewing, as maladaptive behaviors that must be stopped, but instead understand its helpful benefits to our loved ones with ASD.

Oral sensory activities can calm children with ASD, and can be an appropriate outlet while learning and performing other daily tasks.

Here are some examples of ways our BCBAs encourage safe and socially appropriate oral sensory activities:

-Drinking from a water bottle with a dense straw:

Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 3.03.10 PM.png

-Using resistive chewing on chew friendly items (these are a few items we use here at Spectrum):

Dog Tag Chewy Beads 


Lego Lookalike Chew Necklace


Chewy Tubes


Shark Tooth Sensory Teether



To find other items on amazon that are chew friendly, simply search “sensory teether” to discover more options.

We hope you find the resources we use beneficial. Feel free to comment with any additional ideas or questions!

Kids with ASD and Interacting with Law Enforcement

A study published in February 2017 showed that nearly 20 percent of young people on the Autism spectrum have had a run-in with police by age 21, and about half of those by age 15. Some traits of people with ASD, from social anxiety, stimming, difficulty communicating and making eye contact, can resemble a police officer’s standard profile of a suspicious person. Add in the flashing lights, a loud siren or bullhorn, and it can be paralyzing for someone with autism, who may have extreme sensitivity to light, sound or touch.

Considering the behavioral misinterpretations of people who have ASD, we have a few recommendations for preparing your loved one with ASD for any possible future encounters. While we have done presentations to local law enforcement officers about engaging with a person who has ASD, and we can only hope other communities have as well, preparedness cannot hurt to go both ways.


Discuss The Job Duties of First Responders

An easy way to begin informing your loved one about law enforcement and first responders is to teach them their job duties. Having multiple conversations in this way can be proactive preparation.

Try repeatedly discussing the police/firemen’s indicating elements of their uniform (i.e navy attire with a silver badge) or vehicles (red truck) to pair with their duties. Making notecards for a matching game that identify the job function of the first responders could also be effective. Letting them know to not be wary but instead respectful could also be a good idea.

Taking your loved one to the actual police station or fire station would not just be a fun outing, but would also help solidify the memory of uniforms and vehicles of public servicemen in their mind.

If your loved one with ASD understands the duties of public servicemen and women, it can greatly minimize the confusion of why a person in uniform would be approaching them if that ever occurs.

Make an ASD Card

At Spectrum, we advocate making your child with ASD an identification card of sorts.

Notifications this card can include:

  1. Your loved one’s diagnosis
  2. His or her sensitivities
  3. A contact number for his or her Doctor
  4. A contact number for his or her legal guardians
  5. IEP accommodations (for school)

We omit the child’s name in case the card ever got lost. Nevertheless, this is a tactic we advise for students in school settings to carry and can be handy for public situations as well.

These options coupled with making sure your loved one can identify why a public serviceman would approach them could be extremely beneficial to prevent negative encounters with law officials.

An ASD Meltdown vs a Temper Tantrum

A Guide for Family, Friends, and the Public on How to Tell the Difference.

One of the most distressing experiences we feel when our children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a meltdown is the lack of support from others. It is easy for those who don’t know, love or understand our children to think their meltdowns are immature or out of line behavior. On Alis Rowe’s website The Curly Hair Project, she offers a helpful chart for the public. This chart assists in distinguishing between an out of line temper tantrum and a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder’s need for understanding.


The main component of the two categories is whether or not the child seeks attention. Like Alis states at the bottom of the chart, notice if the child is looking for your reaction.

For those that are new to understanding those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, we hope you find this chart useful.

Contact us today if you are in need of a consultation or Autism Spectrum Disorder services for your loved one in the Northern Virginia area.

 (540) 383-7133


Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. {Izaak Walton}


Welcome to the Spectrum Autism Services blog! Our intention with creating this resource is to generate an uplifting community for those who love a person with Autism and for those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although our services are currently located in the state of Virginia, our vision has always been to inform and reach as many people as possible with tidbits of information, ideas, and discussions to make life feel a little less lonely on those difficult days. So we welcome you and hope you find this digital home of ours restorative.