November 2, 2017
More than 750 families have benefitted from services and staff at the Southeastern PA Autism Resource Center (SPARC), which marked its 10th anniversary in October. In celebration, Corinne Murphy, SPARC executive director, emceed a gala dinner that capped a year-long celebration honoring SPARC's families and their accomplishments.
Jennifer Dawson '95, SPARC's clinical director and co-founder with Phillip Duncan, WCU psychology professor emeritus, expressed her gratitude to all those involved with the center's successful first 10 years. She thanked "each family who has chosen SPARC, particularly those first families who really took a chance on a clinic that had no history or outcomes but had a lot of passion and energy!"
SPARC's goal is to help individuals on the autism spectrum develop their strengths while addressing any needs they may have. Recognizing that autism is a wide spectrum, SPARC tailors its services to each individual, and the breadth of needs has only grown. In the 25 years since she was enrolled in Duncan's behavior modification class in 1992, Dawson stated, "the prevalence rate for autism [has leapt from] 1 in 10,000 [to] 1 in 68 today."
SPARC is a teaching clinic and its affiliation with WCU enables students from a variety of majors to serve as student therapists, peer mentors, and volunteers. "University students are the future change agents in the field of autism," noted Murphy. "Students hold the key to ensuring that there will be a large enough workforce to support a diverse and inclusive society. SPARC provides state-of-the-art training to students as they work to master the behavior-based competencies necessary to be effective therapists."
Murphy reported that WCU students with experience and training at SPARC "are recruited by many of the top U.S. master's and doctoral applied behavior analysis programs including Western Michigan University, Ohio State University, Temple University, and University of Maryland-Baltimore. Over the past decade, SPARC graduates have gone on to be leaders across the country in all aspects of the field."
SPARC is located at the University's Graduate Center, 1160 McDermott Drive.