An Autumn Outing with Spectrum

This past weekend, we enjoyed some Spectrum Family fun at Snead’s Asparagus Farm! What a great time to connect with our staff outside of work and have us grow as a team!

Autumn outings to animal farms, hayrides, and pumpkin patches have been a wonderful experience for Spectrum families and employees alike. They provide excellent opportunities for our kiddos to engage with peers and nature.

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.

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.

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


Designing a Space Suitable for Someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder

“Drawing on the latest research in the fields of environmental psychology and education, the authors show you how architecture and interior spaces can positively influence individuals with neurodiversities by modifying factors such as color, lighting, space organization, textures, acoustics, and ventilation.”

Interior Design with Autism in Mind

Have you ever encountered an interior design issue when it came to your loved one with Autism? Or has it never occurred to you that such a type of design existed when moving into a new home or redecorating?

Interior Design Professor Dr. Kristi Gaines and her notable colleagues have created a manual just for that. Titled “Designing for Autism Spectrum Disorders”, the book incorporates Dr. Gaines’ knowledge on both topics of Autism and design. “I’ve known a lot of children with autism through the years, so I have seen firsthand how the physical environment impacts their behavior,” Gaines said in a press conference. “So, when I came back to school to work on my doctorate, I decided I wanted to pursue designing for autism.” 

Designing for Autism Spectrum Disorders explains the influence of the natural and man-made environment on individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other forms of intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD). Drawing on the latest research in the fields of environmental psychology and education, the authors show you how architecture and interior spaces can positively influence individuals with neurodiversities by modifying factors such as color, lighting, space organization, textures, acoustics, and ventilation.”

The book boasts accreditation through multiple awards: Winner of the 2017 IDEC Book Award, 2017 EDRA Great Places Award (Book Category), 2017 American Society of Interior Designers Joel Polsky Prize and the 2016 International Interior Design Association TXOK Research Award

Where to Find the Book

To read chapter one of the book, click here. To purchase a copy, visit its amazon page.