Kids & Family

A community of advocates linked by autism and bound by strength.



With guest State Lobbyist Bart Baldwin



Hi, everyone! Thanks for joining me today. Bart Baldwin is joining us today. He has over two decades of experience in public policy, lobbying and executive level management in the health care and human services fields, and he’s going to provide some insight for us on public policy decisions, state funding, and how he is providing support to those in the autism community. It’s not the most fun topic, I know, but his experience, I believe, will open your eyes. And as always, if you enjoy our podcast, please rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts, and share with a friend. That’s how we make our voice stronger. Thanks for listening!



As we all know far too well, at least for our listeners in the United States, health insurance can be really complicated. Many of us have spent so many hours trying to connect the dots with insurance coverage; it is absolutely so stressful, and I personally have cried so many times to strangers on the other end of the phone just trying to make sense of it all. The insurance landscape has changed drastically over the years, and the good news is (as hard as it may seem some days), we have made some progress. As an example, at least 200 million people now have health insurance coverage for ABA because of the tireless efforts and dedication of advocates across the country. One of these advocates is Bart Baldwin. He is a long-time state lobbyist in the state of Kentucky, and his efforts and advocacy have protected the rights, services, and supports of our autism community. Previously, Bart served as the President of the Children’s Alliance, representing child welfare agencies in Kentucky, and was also the National Director of Regional Public Policy for the Washington D.C. based Child Welfare League of America. Again, I understand this is not the most interesting or fun topic (Bart’s gonna love this lead-in), but I can assure you, in my conversations with Bart, he has opened my eyes to just how much hard work is being done behind the scenes that most of us are completely unaware of. Let’s welcome Bart Baldwin.



I’ve had many people reach out to me to ask “which health insurance provides the best coverage”? Whew! There are so many things that can affect coverage based on the specific type of insurance your employer carries, to what state you live in, and the list literally goes on and on. Just know there are people there that can assist you in the navigation of it all, AND they are fighting to protect your family. I always say, “Keep the hustle”, and don’t take “no” for an answer. Progress has been made because of the people that didn’t stop, that didn’t accept no as an answer. We’re all in it together! Thanks for being a part of My Autism Tribe, I’ll see ya next week!




Purpose: to impact public policy decisions, state regulations, state law, state funding and MCO policy decisions to benefit the partners of ABA Advocates and the children and families they serve. Also, to promote the ABA profession to government and community stakeholders.

ABA Advocates is:  A group of provider organizations, individual providers and other advocates who have decided to partner (not in a legal sense) together and pool their funds together to hire Bart Baldwin Consulting to lobby on their behalf and manage ABA Advocates.

ABA Advocates is not:

  • a formalized or legal association or coalition.
  • a 501(C)3 organization or a 501(C)6 organization or any other IRS defined entity.
  • a coalition/association to assist members with business strategy and development.

What ABA Advocates can expect from Bart Baldwin Consulting:

  • Direct Lobbying to Key Decision Makers in the:
  • General Assembly
  • Governor’s Office
  • Cabinet for Health and Family Services
  • Department for Medicaid Services
  • Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities
  • Department of Education
  • Medicaid Managed Care Organizations
  • Provide Government Affairs Consultation to include:
  • Public Policy Priority Development
  • Political Strategy
  • Grassroots Advocacy Development
  • Training on effective advocacy and lobbying
  • Management of ABA Advocates to include:
  • Billing and collecting of fees
  • Planning, organizing and staffing routine meetings of ABA Advocates
  • Maintaining routine communications with all partners of ABA Advocates

For more information or to become a part of ABA Advocates please contact Bart Baldwin at (502) 320-1143.

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EPISODE 33: Autism Advocates – The Who, What, Where, When & Why

With guest Jennifer Phelps, Founder & CEO of Engage Behavioral Health



Hey, everyone! Thanks for joining me today. Today’s topic is all about advocacy – specifically as to the Who, What, Where, When & Why of every autism advocate. We’re speaking with Jennifer Phelps of Engage Behavioral Health in Tallahassee Florida, she’s going to share her personal story of the path that lead her to where she is today. It’s pretty cool.  And as always, if you’re enjoying this podcast, we sure would love for you to rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts, and share with a friend. That’s how we make our voice stronger. Thanks for listening!



Every autism advocate’s story is different. Sure, they share similarities, but the journey of the advocacy (the who, what, where, when, why) can sometimes be vastly different.

Jennifer Phelps founded Engage Behavioral Health in Tallahassee Florida in 2008 after years of studying and working with individuals on the autism spectrum and other developmental disabilities. So that’s the who, what, where. The when started at a young age. In middle school at age 12, she began volunteering to work with individuals with disabilities in Florida, and then she read Catherine Maurice’s “Let Me Hear Your Voice”. Then her nephew received a developmental disability diagnosis, and all of that my folks, was and is her why.



Autism advocacy comes in all shapes and colors. Just like individuals on the spectrum, when you’ve met one autism advocate, you’ve met one autism advocate. As we continue to educate, support and empower our communities, reach out and find the different stories. Dig deep to find the who, what, where, when, and why. I guarantee that under every rock is an incredible story of patience, perseverance, dedication and love. Thanks for being a part of My Autism Tribe. See ya next week!



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EPISODE 32: The First Division-I Athlete with Autism: Go Spartans

With guest Anthony Ianni



Hey, everyone! Thanks for joining My Autism Tribe. Today’s episode features Anthony Ianni, the first Division-I athlete with Autism and one of the most sought-after anti-bullying motivational speakers, and for good reason. His story is a powerful one. And as always, if you’re enjoying our podcast, please rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts, and share with a friend. That’s how we make our voice stronger. Thanks for listening!



Bullying is a very real and serious problem that affects all ages, ethnic backgrounds, everybody. However, individuals with disabilities, such as autism, are one of the prime targets for bullies.

Our guest today is very familiar with bullying, because he was a victim, Anthony Ianni, of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. His story is so inspiring. Anthony played with the legendary coach Tom Izzo while at Michigan State University as the very first Division-I athlete with autism. I can’t wait for everyone to hear his story. Let’s give a warm welcome to the newest member of My Autism Tribe, Anthony Ianni.



Anthony repeatedly delivers a consistent message wherever he goes, with whomever he is speaking with, and that is that those on the autism spectrum have the same dreams, desires and goals as anybody else. Anthony’s family made a pledge they would help Anthony be successful no matter what. Well done, Greg and Jaime. We’re so proud of your son Anthony. Thanks for being a part of My Autism Tribe, and I’ll see you next week!



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August 26, 2019

Moving with Autism


“How to help your loved one cope during and after a move.”



Hey, everyone! Thanks for joining My Autism Tribe. Today’s topic is how to help your loved one with autism cope during and after a move. As in, packing up an entire house and moving to an entirely different location. Stay tuned for some helpful tips! And as always, if you’re enjoying our podcast, please rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts, and share with a friend. That’s how we make our voice stronger. Thanks for listening!



My son and I recently moved, and I have to say there’s a reason moving is considered one of the top five most stressful situations in life. I think the other four are divorce, job loss, illness, and the death of a loved one. It’s no secret as to why. Not only is it a complete hassle, but it disrupts your life in ways that push even the most organized, experienced and sane adults to their mental and physical limits. It’s a marathon, people.

And for a child, coping with the stress of moving is even more difficult. Maybe they also have to change schools, maybe there’s a co-occurring trauma happening like divorce. This is a lot, and a child’s still-developing brain is not equipped yet for the challenge of relocating their entire life. Sometime you can see immediate negative responses, like tantrums, outburst, trouble eating, not sleeping, and then others may respond more subtly over time, and can show up as depression or anxiety. We all know that every child is different, but for children with autism, the effects of moving can be even more pronounced. I wouldn’t say that moving is ever a pleasant experience, but there’s a little bit of good news. As a parent or caregiver, there are steps you can take throughout the move to make the experience easier for your child with autism. I’ve moved so many times with my son Alex, that I my process is like a well-oiled machine. Not kidding. This is almost embarrassing, but during the course of Alex’s short life (he just turned 6), we have moved a total of four times – two of those times were out-of-state moves. You get the picture. So…without further ado, let me share some tips with you, in the case that you are planning a move, or possibly anticipating a move.

Create a Narrative

Start with writing your own story. For children with autism, communication is critical. Put simply, you should explain to your child the who, what, when, where, why, and how of moving. Tell them where you’re moving and why. (Just be sure to be age-appropriate, of course) Let them know that the people and things they love and care about will be moving with them. Let them know when you’ll begin the moving process, how long it will take, and how you’ll pack, move, and unpack your things. And the whole time, use a positive tone that conveys that everything is going to be OK. Being aware of the process will allow your child to begin to understand it and, ultimately, come to terms with it.

One of my favorite ways of doing this is to create a social story — or even several stories — depicting the transition. Many children on the spectrum are visual learners who do better with concrete information, as opposed to abstract concepts. That’s why social stories work. They take specific situations that are difficult to grasp, like moving to a new home or changing schools, and explain them. What’s more, they walk the child through the emotions they may feel, how they might expect others to act during the process, as well as healthy responses to each.

When creating your own social story, consider these tips:

  1. Design your story to address one problem, situation, or desired outcome. Use different stories for different aspects of the move, like enrolling in a new school or taking a long car ride to the new home, to keep the story from being too long.
  2. When possible, use real pictures of your family, as well as your names and other personal details. Ask your real estate agent to send you photos from the new home to incorporate.
  3. Be truthful and accurate, but always speak in a positive tone. You should also highlight the positive aspects of the move — decorating a new bedroom, having a bigger backyard to play in, or being closer to activities and people they love, for example.
  4. Use simple language that is easy for your little one to understand and repeat.
  5. Have the child present the story to their family and friends as a way of building confidence around the situation.

In addition to the custom solution a social story provides, you can also use existing books, movies, and music to familiarize your child with the moving process from the eyes of another child, family, or even fictional character. Here’s how:

  • Use your child’s favorite storytellers. If there is a series or character your child already loves, you can probably make a connection between your child’s situation and theirs. A simple online search will reveal whether the cast of Sesame Street, The Berenstain Bears, or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood have ever had to move. (They have!)
  • Introduce moving-specific storylines. There are dozens of book and movies out there written specifically to help children cope with relocating. Check them out from the library or order them online, and then just read, watch, and repeat.

In addition to talking to your child, you should also take the time to listen and observe. Most importantly, ask your child how he or she is feeling about the move. Even if your little one can’t put into words what they are feeling, chances are you know them well enough to discern what parts of the moving process are making them most anxious. Also, be on the lookout for new behaviors and different emotional responses at home or school. Every tantrum, outburst, or breakdown is another opportunity to reassure your child that everything will be OK.

Take Action

In addition to telling and showing your child how a move will affect them, there are some more steps you can take to ease them through the transition. Keep in mind that every child is different, and what calms one little person may trigger another. Use your best judgment and parental instincts to determine which of these ideas may benefit your kid, and don’t be afraid to change tactics mid-stride if your strategy doesn’t seem to be working.

During the move, pack your child’s belongings last, and unpack them first. Allow your child to help as much or as little as they feel comfortable. If they are anxious about all of their belongings making it to the new house, ask them to make a checklist of beloved items. Then, let them help you pack and label them. Consider investing in clear, plastic tubs instead of plain cardboard boxes. This way, your child can keep an eye on their stuff. You may even be able to transport a container of their special items in the car with you.

Your list of action items should also include creating a space in the new home where your child feels safe and comfortable. For some children, this may mean organizing and decorating their new room to mimic their old one. While the layout and size of the room will likely vary, taking care to position furniture, wall hangings, and toys in the same relative positions can help your little one regain a sense of familiarity in your new home. Other children may see a new room as a chance to choose new decor. Allowing them to choose a paint color or a new bedding set may be just the thing your child needs to get excited about his new space.

If your new home comes with a backyard, you may also want to invest some time and energy into creating an outdoor space specifically for your child with ASD before you move in or shortly after. Focus on activities that develop skills and stimulate their senses, like a sandbox, water table, or birdseed bin. It would help if you also designed an area of the space as a haven — somewhere your child can go when he or she is feeling overstimulated.

Ultimately, finding a new normal is going to take time. Even after everything is moved and unpacked, leave space for your child to change his or her mind. While you may not be able to repaint their room, you can rearrange it or replace their new comforter with their old, familiar one.

Consistency is Key

The more prepared your child is for each part of the journey, the more likely their acceptance of it. As you probably already know, that means repeating the narrative you’ve created over and over and over again. During a move, that’s going to be more difficult than usual. You’ll be busy packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking, not to mention completing all of the administrative tasks that come with moving. (Think address changes, projects around the house, and other odds and ends.) Just remember, the time and energy you spend helping your child understand the process will come back to you in the end in a great way. So, start early, repeat often, and — perhaps most importantly — don’t stop reassuring your child until they have adjusted to all of the changes in their lives. It’s gonna take some time for you as well, and that’s ok. Not every move for me has been a positive one, but I kept reassuring myself that no matter how difficult the process was, there was space to make a home at the end. And this home was going to be filled with love, and patience, and understanding. The new home would be a witness to the amazing achievements my son was going to make, and the strength that I would build. It’s all good! Take a deep breath, and take one box at a time.

Thanks for being a part of My Autism Tribe, and I’ll see ya next week!

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With guest Robin Hammond of Southern Hospitality Etiquette



In the 1950s, manners were taught to all children. Because of the structured ways that manners were taught and the expectation that everyone would learn them, it helped many children who were socially awkward to adapt. I want to read you a quote from our beloved Temple Grandin: “It is acceptable to be eccentric, but being rude, unkind, or not knowing how to interact with others at the basic level of “please,” “thank you,” or “excuse me” is never acceptable. Manners help people exist together and get along with each other. They will open doors that will give you a chance to express yourself, be yourself, and achieve your goals and dreams. I know from experience that this is possible. Just keep learning and trying!”


Today’s guest is Robin Hammond, the owner of Southern Hospitality in Kentucky.  She specializes in teaching children and adults, through etiquette classes, how to become confident, self-assured, and influential leaders in the community. Robin also became an official Autism-Friendly Certified Business. Please join me in a warm welcome.



In many of her writings and face-to-face presentations, Temple Grandin repeatedly stresses one thing: autism is not an excuse for bad behavior. In a great book with a forward by Temple, they give tips for teaching manners to children with autism. The top ones are: 1. Model the good manners you are trying to teach your child. 2. Use video modeling and media as tools. Even animated characters can have good manners. 3. Define the manner in a way that is meaningful for the child. Explain to them that they are rules. Some kids don’t care or understand the “why it’s important to others”. And 4. Consider using visuals and nonverbal prompts so the child can learn to use manners independently.

All in all, no matter where we call home, the basic social manners of “please,” “thank you,” or excuse me” are a universal language. As Temple says, “Just keep learning and trying.” Thanks so much for being a part of My Autism Tribe, and I’ll see you next week!



There are a few things southerners take seriously: college football, anything fried, and manners. As southern children, we are taught early on the value of writing thank-you notes, saying “please” and “thank you”, and understanding the important of proper etiquette in every situation.

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EPISODE 29: Friendly Robot Helps Children with Autism

With Dr. Greg Firn, COO, RoboKind



Many children and adults on the autism spectrum need help in learning how to act in different types of social situations. They often have the desire to interact with others, but may not know how to engage friends or may be overwhelmed by the idea of new experiences.


Today’s guest is Dr. Greg Firn, the Chief Operating Officer for RoboKind. The focus at RoboKind has been to help children with autism learn critical social and behavioral skills and achieve academic success by way of purpose-built humanoid robots that deliver developmental instruction modules that teach critical functional skills. This comprehensive intervention program is called Robots4Autism. Greg’s deep experience and passion for helping under-served children has been instrumental in helping RoboKind develop the products and strategies that will successfully serve the K-12 education market.



All students, regardless of their background or ability, should be given the opportunity to realize their full potential. The future is interactive education, and thanks to our friends at RoboKind, we are on our way to engaging, enhancing, and enriching students with diverse and inclusive education. Thanks so much for being a part of My Autism Tribe. Keep up the great work, and I’ll see you next week!



Robots4Autism is a comprehensive intervention program that uses purpose-built humanoid robots to deliver developmental instruction modules that teach critical functional skills.

  • The curriculum uses proven best practices for teaching social and behavioral skills.
  • The robot, Milo, creates a high-level of engagement between the student and the robot.
  • Unlimited repetition of lessons that are 100% consistent.
  • Data provided to document and direct student progress.


Positive Student Outcomes – Learners with ASD using the Robots4Autism curriculum show observable increases in engagement: eye contact, body language and friendliness. Working with Milo, learners act more appropriately in social situations, self-motivate, self-regulate, and generalize in the population.



  1. Behavior – Rapid decreases in disruptions and meltdowns; increases in ability to concentrate. Due to Calm Down modules and acceptance of Milo as a friend.
  2. Emotional Understanding – Increased understanding of human emotions and their meanings creates a willingness to look at humans directly in their face. Creates confidence and willingness to engage in social situations.
  3. Vocabulary – Dramatic increases in verbalization and attempts to use language and expand vocabulary.
  4. Home – Changes in behavior and interaction at home and a recognition by parents that things have improved.
  5. School – Ability to function in school translates into rapid academic progress. These life-changing benefits often occur after only 1-4 months of interaction with Milo. 







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Featuring Joyce Peet, OT



Sometimes it’s easy to get mentally stuck in a place of despair when caring for a loved one on the autism spectrum. All of the therapy appointments, advocating and temporary setbacks can be overwhelming and discouraging. I always think it’s important, however, to focus on the stories of success. The stories that give hope and encouragement. Everyone needs this, right?


Today’s guest has many years of experience in providing care for those on the spectrum, and she has many stories that I believe will inspire us all to keep going. Joyce Peet is an occupational therapist, and she has been providing therapy for my son for the past two years. I’ve seen the progress that my son has made, and I’ve often relied on her to provide me direction on the best ways to set goals for social interaction, behavior and classroom performance for Alex. Let’s all give a warm welcome.



Occupational therapists are experts in the social, emotional, and physiological effects of illness. This knowledge helps them promote skills for independent living in people with autism and other developmental disorders. They are often a very critical piece in a developmental therapy program. But aside from all of the text book knowledge and individualized therapy plans, they are a witness to the incredible lives of those on the spectrum. From beginning to end, they see it all, and are inspired to make a difference in the lives of others. Thanks so much for being a part of My Autism Tribe, and I’ll see you next week!

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With Dawnita Shively



Sometimes it’s easy to just focus on the word “autism”, but let’s have our conversation today focus on passions and uniqueness. Let’s talk about setting goals for the individual and the expectation of your child having a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life.


Today’s guest is Dawnita Shively, a passionate BCBA and Clinical Director for Autism and Behavior Concepts– an organization that provides clinic and home-based services to children and adults with autism. She has a vast amount of knowledge and experience from her years in working closely with autism families.


Early detection & Intervention:

  • This is your child. If you feel that your child is not hitting milestones be persistent. Find someone who will take your concerns seriously and evaluate.
  • Allow yourself to grieve and start setting goals and expectations.
  • Do not let a diagnosis tell you who your child will become.
    • Like all of us, they will have their own goals and passions. Learn to accept those passions and help them by allowing access to interventions that teach lifelong skills.
  • Research the treatment options and decide what is best for your child.


School age:

  • Culturally children are expected to go to school. That is what parents strive for and if this is right for your child, push for it.
  • Remember that public education requires that children receive “free and appropriate” not “free and exactly what you want.”
    • Ask yourself what behavior impedes on my child succeeding in school.
    • Consult professionals to help you set reasonable goals and push.
    • Find a placement that understands that your child is an individual and use your child’s passions to help them succeed in life.
    • Know your rights and let the school know you are aware of what your child deserves and do not give up.


  • Teenage years are difficult on all of us. Remember this is not unique to autism, try to relate, do not make excuses, and continue to set goals.
  • This is the time to start asking, observing and getting to know what motivates your child.
  • How can you help them grow in areas they enjoy so that they can have a happy and productive life?
    • Hobbies
    • Job Skills
    • Independence: We are happy when we can do things for ourselves.
  • Start thinking and talking about what lifestyle your child will have as an adult.
    • Reasses goals and barriers to that lifestyle.



  • Remember to ask yourself what makes a productive and happy adult. Focus on these areas as goals.
  • Do not focus on Autism, focus on the happy and productive life.
  • Who in your life can help you support your child?
    • Reality is you will not be around forever.
    • You want your child to have a community, just like you have, to support them in their passion and goals.
  • Remember that all adults make choices that lead to success and happiness. Working with your adult child and knowing their goals will help you.
    • College
    • Job placement
    • Living with you



Always remember that a parent is a child’s best advocate. Parents are ultimately responsible for making sure their child can have a happy and healthy life. By having these expectations, they can set goals to remove barriers that may prevent this from happening. If you are a parent or caregiver to a loved one on the autism spectrum, set goals for a life that is meaningful to your child and society, and know that autism does not define your child. Let your child define themselves, and support them in having the best life they can possibly have. Thanks for joining me today, and for being a part of My Autism Tribe. I’ll see you next week!

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How often do you find yourself saying, “My life is just chaotic. Will this ever end?” Today’s guest is a father and autism advocate that has worked tirelessly at not only creating a thriving home environment for his family, but many other families as well.


Kyle Jetsel, and his wife Shelly, are the proud parents of six children, two of them being on the autism spectrum. He’s going to be sharing his story on how his family is actually thriving amidst the chaos. They are coaches, confidants, and they truly understand what it’s like to be on the autism roller coaster. Over the past decade, they’ve developed strategies and techniques that have helped their family lower stress, and have been able to get back the family life they wanted. A life filled with joy, happiness and fun. It hasn’t been easy, but they weren’t afraid to work at it. Please welcome this inspiring guest, Kyle Jetsel.



Raising children on the autism spectrum can be really hard. The chaos can sometimes feel overwhelming. Perhaps there are times you feel that your home is like a combat zone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Now is the time to really roll up your sleeves, dig deep, and help your family get a whole new, better life that everyone deserves. We are here for you, for support, love and encouragement. Thanks for being a part of My Autism Tribe, and thanks for listening to the inspirational message of Kyle Jetsel. I’ll see you next week!









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EPISODE 25:  Autism - A Mother and BCBA’s Story



As you know, we’re always searching for wonderful stories and great information to share. On today’s episode, we’re speaking with BCBA and Founder of Proof Positive ABA Therapies, Heather Grimaldi. As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Clinical Director, Heather’s focus has always been on supporting the families and team members tasked with implementing behavior-analytic interventions. She built Proof Positive ABA Therapies to teach self-help and social skills with a family-focused approach and an emphasis on parent education. In 2016, Autism Learning Partners created one of the largest autism therapy platforms by acquiring Proof Positive (Heather has a funny story about this), and today she continues her work with families as a Clinical Liaison with Autism Learning Partners in Orange County, California. Please join me in a warm welcome.



Our goal is to always share a diverse range of voices within the autism community; people both on and off the spectrum, from all walks of life, with all different backgrounds. We feel it’s important because we’re all in it together! We can all learn from each other, and we can all support each other. On good days and bad days. Thanks for joining me today and for being a part of My Autism Tribe. I’ll see you next week!




The supplement is designed to provide the nutritional needs of the developing nervous system, with extra support for individuals with autism, by addressing potential dietary deficits. Working with Defeat Autism Now and Medical Association of Pediatric Special Needs affiliated doctors in her role as a BCBA, company founder Heather Grimaldi saw benefits of high-end supplement systems firsthand. Simple Spectrum is similar to a nutraceutical a doctor might prescribe, but at a much more affordable price, without the long drives and even longer waits. There are states and countries that don’t even have access to these types of doctors.


The Simple Spectrum mission was to create the kind of nutraceutical supplement based on the latest scientific research, and free from the extraneous additives packed into so many similar products on the market. As a parent of one child with sensory processing disorders and another with ketotic hypoglycemia, responsible for implementing food programs herself, Heather knows how hard it can be to get kids to eat the right foods and that includes her own kids. Simple Spectrum Supplement is an unflavored dissolvable powder without gluten, casein, added sugar, soy, binding agents, artificial colors, preservatives, GMOs and dairy. The highest quality vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients – Simple Spectrum Supplement really is quite simple.

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