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East County Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2021 3 months ago

Beyond the Spectrum expands facility in Sarasota

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The nonprofit will add 2,500 square feet of space to address its growing waitlist of students. AND Beyond the Spectrum adds space to handle demand..
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

On this particular day, Sharon Pannone, the development director at Beyond the Spectrum, received two phone calls, an email and a message on social media from people hoping to send their child to the nonprofit education and therapy center for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related diagnoses. 

All Pannone could do was inform the families of other resources and put them on a waitlist for acceptance to Beyond the Spectrum. 

“We are bursting at the seams,” Pannone said. 

Pannone said in April, the nonprofit had 30 children on the waitlist for each of its three programs. 

Work on a 2,500-square-foot expansion to Beyond the Spectrum's current facility at 7333 International Place, Lakewood Ranch, began June 28 and is expected to allow Beyond the Spectrum to expand its enrollment by 10 to 95 students. The expansion is expected to be completed in August.

The extra space will provide an office, eight therapy rooms, and additional space for students in the Mariposa program to learn life skills. 

“I’m looking forward to being able to definitely serve more families in the community that are in need,” said Lora Carpenter, the nonprofit’s executive director. “It’ll improve the quality of the services we’re providing. We’re working on making our programs more meaningful. The curriculums and offering the life skills is going to be impactful.”

Beyond the Spectrum’s Applied Behavioral Therapy Clinic, which provides Applied Behavior Analysis services, will move into the new space, making more room for the Mariposa program in the existing space. Applied Behavior Analysis is a therapeutic approach that targets maladaptive behaviors and replaces them with appropriate behavior.

Pannone hopes the nonprofit will receive funding through grants to cover some of the cost of the $100,000 expansion, but the rest of the funding will come from donations and fundraising. She said the nonprofit will set up a capital fund for the project as all the donations and fundraising usually go toward paying for therapies and curriculum.

Pannone said the nonprofit is expecting the need for education and therapeutic services will continue to grow, especially after the pandemic. 

“I think (the pandemic) pulled back a veil for some of these families to realize their children’s needs weren’t being met once they had them at home,” Pannone said. 

Tyler Mullett enjoys being at Beyond the Spectrum. Courtesy photo.

The nonprofit is having a dip in the grass area behind its parking lot filled in to make the ground level so a playground can be added. The nonprofit currently has to block off the street with cones so students can play on the side of its facility. 

Carpenter is hoping the nonprofit can add mental health counseling for its students after seeing more students demonstrate symptoms of anxiety and depression, some of which resulted from the pandemic. 

Carpenter and Pannone said the nonprofit’s longterm goal is to move to a different facility that can accommodate its needs and it can expand its services. 

Pannone said the staff wants to start an adult day center for those who are older than 22 and cannot get a job or be on their own due to their disorder. 

“We’ve had to realize we’re not primarily going to be a short stop,” Carpenter said. “For some families, we are a lifelong option, and we want to be a lifelong option for them.”

It could be years before Beyond the Spectrum is able to move because the move could cost about $1.5 million, Pannone said.

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