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Krystal and Kyle Vanvales

Krystal and Kyle Vanvales first learned about SARRC through their pediatrician and a close friend when they noticed signs of autism in their 18-month-old daughter.

“In the beginning, the specific signs that first alerted us was her anxiety around any type of confinement. And as time progressed, we noticed more obvious signs like limited eye contact with peers, limited attempts at interaction or struggling to acclimate to new environments or people,” Krystal recalls.

Their pediatrician suggested Krystal and Kyle contact SARRC for a formal autism evaluation.

“A good friend of mine’s son was also diagnosed through SARRC, so hearing so many positive things motivated our family to explore the referral,” Krystal says.

Soon after, the Vanvales visited SARRC for a diagnostic evaluation, where the family was able to use the Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment (NODA) tool — a smartphone-based system that lets parents record and send videos to SARRC’s team for analysis in advance of the on-site evaluation.

The hallmark of NODA is that it improves the breadth of information available to SARRC’s staff and significantly shortens the length of time families need to spend in the office for an evaluation.

“The diagnostic process was relatively easy,” she says. “NODA provided us scenarios to record our daughter’s interactions and play, with a SARRC psychologist later reviewing the footage.”

Inspired by SARRC’s work, Krystal and Kyle attended SARRC’s Annual Community Breakfast, where they were inspired to pledge their support to the Multiyear Visionary Partner (MVP) giving program.

“I knew I wanted to support SARRC because it has provided invaluable support for my family,” Krystal said. “The breakfast inspired us to commit. I love science, and learning about SARRC’s research initiatives, such as the use of eye-tracking technology to potentially expedite the diagnostic process for children, fueled our desire to support the organization.”

Krystal continues to be inspired by SARRC’s mission and vision, as she recently attended a tour of SARRC’s Paiute Campus, to learn more about SARRC’s 2030 Strategic Plan to become a statewide organization.

During the tour, SARRC’s President & CEO, Daniel Openden, emphasized the importance of realizing the organization’s vision.

“I remember Danny mentioned that when he first started in the field of autism, the number of children diagnosed with autism was one in 500, and today it’s one in 36,” Krystal recalls. “Having a child with autism, and learning that one in 36 children are diagnosed, makes you realize we will meet more individuals with autism. Striving for inclusivity is essential so that people with autism are meaningfully integrated into inclusive communities.”

As a mother of a child with autism, Krystal actively participates in “ASD Mamas – By Your Side,” a support group founded by SARRC mothers for mothers with children on the autism spectrum. For Krystal and the group, “ASD Mamas – By Your Side” offers crucial support.

Eight years ago, Krystal and Kyle relocated from California to Arizona for work. Krystal works for AbbVie Pharmaceuticals, and Kyle works for Dermavant Sciences. The Vanvales have grown to love Arizona, planning to stay indefinitely, cherishing the community values embraced by everyone they meet.

Are you interested in making a difference by becoming a SARRC Multiyear Visionary Partner? Learn more here.