About Us

Dr. Phillip Duncan and Dr. Jennifer Dawson established the Southeastern Pennsylvania Autism Resource Center (SPARC) in 2007. SPARC is a non-profit clinic and provides services to individuals with autism, and a variety of other behavioral challenges.

All of our services utilize the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA). SPARC provides diagnostic and consultation services, behavioral therapy, feeding evaluations and treatments, early-education programs, and social skills training. SPARC strives to extend its services and treatments into the outside world–working directly with parents, grandparents, teachers, and various other caregivers. SPARC also serves as a teaching clinic for undergraduate and graduate students.

A Brief History

More than a decade ago, Dr. Phillip Duncan, a professor at West Chester University–now Professor Emeritus–began placing undergraduate students as therapists working with children on the autism spectrum. One of Dr. Duncan's students, Jennifer Dawson–greatly inspired by her undergraduate experiences–dedicated her career to working with individuals with developmental disabilities, within the field of behavior analysis. In partnership with West Chester University, Dr. Duncan applied for grant funding to conduct a needs assessment of region. Dr. Dawson worked with Dr. Duncan on the resulting grant to determine a significant need for high quality services for individuals with autism. This evidence provided Drs. Duncan and Dawson the opportunity to establish SPARC.

SPARC first opened in March of 2007, staffed by Dr. Dawson, led by Dr. Duncan, and supported by Dr. Duncan's wife, Mary. The center partnered with the West Chester University Foundation in May 2007, and received its non-profit 501c3 status in October 2007. During the early days, Dr. Dawson provided behavioral feeding treatment, behavioral consultations, and diagnostic evaluations to area families. Dr. Murphy joined the clinic in the summer of 2007 as a volunteer and research consultant, running SPARC's first social skills group in partnership with the WCU Daycare. Cherie Fishbaugh joined the growing clinic in 2008, leading the expansion of the social skills, preschool readiness, and adults programs. Cherie became SPARC's first full-time employee later that year.

Today

SPARC continues to grow in services available as well as staff. Alyssa Miller, Dena Kelly, Desiree Heckers, and Susan Bray, all apart of WCU community as former students themselves or in training current WCU students,, have joined the SPARC team. Additionally, SPARC provides state of the art training to our university student volunteers and practicum students as they learn the behavioral based compentencies necessary to be effective therapists. SPARC is proud of our university students as they are recruited by many of the top master's and doctoral ABA programs in the country including Western Michigan University, Ohio State University, Temple University, and Univeristy of Maryland-Baltimore/Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Our Mission

SPARC offers empirically-validated behavioral treatment programs to help individuals on the autism spectrum, as well as children with a variety of behavioral concerns or other developmental disabilities. We believe all children have unique needs, and we strive to provide comprehensive therapeutic services in order to facilitate social, academic, and personal growth, while providing support to families as they navigate the maze of evaluation and treatment.

Our Philosophy

We believe each child must receive assessments and treatments individualized to his or her needs, and the needs of his or her family. We believe every person with autism should receive effective and validated treatment in order to reach the highest level of independence. We believe treatment must be dynamic and flexible, developing and progressing as the child grows and reaches greater levels of independence. We believe that every person with autism has the right to receive treatment from qualified and caring individuals. We believe the foundation for effective treatment uses data-based, empirically-validated procedures with objective evaluation of outcomes. We believe we are responsible to our clients for examining our effectiveness through objective analysis of our performance.

Our Core Values

  • Self-Determination
    • Enable each client to develop skills leading to greater independence and a fulfilling life of their choosing.
  • Collaboration
    • Ensure treatment effectiveness by engaging in open communication and collaboration with community partners, such as school districts, physicians, speech therapists, and social workers.
  • Treatment Efficacy
    • Ensure full implementation of accurate and current evidence-based treatment approaches by having our clinicians maintain active continuing education in the fields of applied behavior analysis and autism.
  • Families
    • Work directly with family members to ensure training and education extends to real life change since the family is a crucial partner in effectively changing the lives of people with autism.
  • Not-For-Profit
    • Provide exceptional and affordable treatment to families through active fundraising and community support, in order to prevent family fiscal distress.