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Spectrum College Transition ProgramNot what it appears to be. Misrepresented. Huge disappointment.

D Review updated:

Beware. Beware. Beware.

The staff is great, the program promising, but the director, Robin Sweet, (in our opinion, based on our experience---which we do not believe is unusual) is an overbearing egomaniacal autocrat, although she pretends to be so friendly, open and accessible when selling you into the program. She can very well ruin your child's experience and turn a possible positive into a definite negative.

Granted, the facilities are impressive and comfortable. Also, on the social side, our child got a lot out of the program. But, that is by virtue of being in the same nice place with others who have many of the same issues. Plus, as said earlier, the staff is great. Unfortunately, on the educational oversight side (interacting with the community college, having supports in place for academic assistance, etc.), Spectrum fell far short. There were other serious problems, as well.

Regarding the educational aspect, in a program such as this, no participant should fail a class. There is no excuse for them to not get at least a D if there was more interaction between the participant, the staff and the professors at the college. While our child was there we know of at least one child who failed a class they really liked and thought they were doing well in (as we understand). How could this be if Spectrum was truly helping students to TRANSITION to greater independence and competence?

Over promising and under delivering is Robin Sweet's M.O.. Lack of communication is her style, once you pay up. When courting you, communication flows freely. She is a very good salesperson, above all else. Her credentials may be somewhat impressive, but her career focus has been business and making money. Just research a bit and you will see.

You may note her husband/partner is a PhD. However, this advanced degree is in Business Education and is not relevant to a program like Spectrum. Also, he has little, if any, presence or involvement with participants and/or parents. He and his partner/wife just follow the money and, with regard to Spectrum, Robin calls all the shots. She'll do and say whatever it takes to be in control and make money.

She even uses her son as a selling point, saying he has Aspergers, which we believe is just part of the sales pitch.

Don't be fooled by the fact Spectrum is a non-profit. People who run non-profit organizations can pay themselves lots of money.

Robin, herself, has put program participants at risk by unethical and unprofessional behavior. Not keeping track of medications, etc. And medication management is one area where open communication and cooperation are key, but they are also sorely lacking at Spectrum. The last thing you want are medication mess ups with your child. Yet, they are quite possible at Spectrum, because of the communication lapses. That was our biggest concern and our biggest complaint, which put us head to head with Robin's intractable attitude of self-righteous control. This is, essentially, why our child is no longer there. Call it the straw that broke the camel's back.

Robin and the program apparently have no oversight by any outside entity/agency when it comes to how any individual child or family is treated. There is no intermediary, nor mediator between her and you. She calls the shots, and if you don't like it, your child may suffer dearly by being marginalized or even tossed from the program.

If she makes a unilateral decision, it is not able to be questioned nor countered by students, parents or staff. She is a very authoritarian dictator. Robin Sweet will tell you anything to get you signed up (like space is going fast, there is a waiting list, better act now) but will rarely respond to you (or allow the staff to, beyond a minimum) once you're child is on board. By the way, Spectrum has never actually filled the program once, since its inception. Talk of a waiting list is a ploy to get you to sign up NOW.

As a parent of a participant, communication directly with staff is frowned upon, but communication through the director to staff is often garbled, if delivered at all. Other special needs programs have communications liaisons. At Spectrum everything must go through Robin, and she is not exactly receptive nor responsive once you've signed her contract.

Your child deserves better than this. It's a real shame. Such potential to do the right thing. So close to doing it. But, Robin Sweet is more concerned about your money, and her ego, than your child. She comes off personable as heck when selling, but behaves like a tyrant (and/or a spoiled child) in the running of this program.

Our advice to parents is to look elsewhere. It's just too bad there is so little choice in programs for college age students with Aspergers. The problem is, she knows it and uses it against you at every turn.

One more thing, as parents of a former participant, we find it hard to believe Temple Grandin or Tony Attwood are really advisors. If I were you, I'd ask to see the minutes of the last advisory board meeting or, at least some proof that this is a real advisory board and not some people putting their names on a program they've been hoodwinked into by an autocratic, megalomaniacal, entrepreneurial, saleswoman.

Due to Robin's abrasive style, participant turnover is common and (of late) staff turnover has been a real problem.

Parents of young adults with Aspergers Syndrome, do NOT send your child to this program. If you doubt anything presented in this review, be sure to do your research and ask lots and lots of questions (and listen to the answers with a fair share of skepticism) before even considering giving Robin Sweet your money. Again, your child deserves better.

Responses

  • As
    ASDmom Apr 20, 2013
    This comment was posted by
    a verified customer
    Verified customer

    I totally agree with you even though my son never went to Spectrum as a resident but we did went to visit...twice. First I went with my husband and were very impressed by the whole place and staff including Robin, although there was something that stroke me as weird when she kept asking the female staff constantly about regular activities (school and otherwise), discipline and students, when in my opinion she should have known everything that goes around there since she is the one running the program. Also, the fact that they keep the medications and electronic equipment that belong to the residents under locked door wasn't my idea of teaching independence to young adults who are trying to learn how to live on their own, our son is in charge of his own medications and knows when it's time to turn off his electronics, and I think most of the young adults that reside there are capable of doing the same. But we went ahead with the tour and finally after seating down and talking at length (I thought) with Robin we decided it was time to bring our son. We took videos of the facility to show to him and he was really excited and impressed, so we drove back during his Spring Break. When we got there, the first interaction he had was with the same female staff member we had met before and he started talking instantly with her so a good rapport was established, but once Robin walked through the door he went into "high alert", he did not have any interaction with her but went along for the tour and seemed to like the place. We then sat down for the interview and even though I kept telling Robin he was a little shy with strangers and did not like to talk much about the future, she kept on pushing the subject and kept asking questions about college even after my son told her he wasn't sure what major he wanted, (which I think is normal for almost every freshman student going into college), due to her persistence my boy "hit a wall" and stopped talking and started self stimulation and making calming noises which I should mention he never does unless he is under extreme stress. After an hour of enduring this "torture" and wait for her to read all her emails and talk about other students with the female staff in front of us, we were told that our son was too low functioning and wouldn't be a fit for her program, she said all this and with those words in front of him, so needless to say we stood up and left shocked and extremely upset by the whole experience and not knowing what or where to go next. I did read the previous review before going the first time and thought twice about going but I guess one learn from their own mistakes and here I am, reporting what we saw on two different occasions. I also want to point out that in those two different occasions, two different residents were sick and locked up in their rooms, so when I asked about medical attention Robin responded that the students don't have a Primary Care Physician but when they are sick they are taken to Urgent Care, and not always the same one, they might call in advance to see which one has the shortest wait list or just show up and if the wait is too long take the resident to another one...which I am in total disagreement with since this young adults with ASD need to have one doctor to keep track of medications and general health since they are going to be so far away form home.
    After this awful experience I am glad to report that we found two wonderful programs (which I visited with my boy the day after) also in the Phoenix area which we visited and are looking into (Ascend and Life Development Institute), and we are very confident that whichever one we choose, our boy will learn how to be independent and strive as a person.

    3 Votes
  • Gr
    Gristmill May 12, 2013

    This was our impression was similar to the above parents'. Upon interviewing the owner of the Spectrum College Transition Program, Robin Sweet, we could not help but feel carried away by her sales pitch as it was full of enthusiastic adjectives about her program. The marketing materials contained some exciting activities and resources supposedly available at the site of the program, such as a recording suite, and that there was academic tutoring that was supposedly offered on site, etc. However, when we asked for more details about those items, both of which were of high interest to us for our daughter, she simply gave evasive non-answers. When we pressed further, she simply tried to rush us through the interview process, pushing the contract at us to be signed, so she could move on to her next victims. We did not sign, but found out that in fact, none of these claims were true. False advertising. Afterwards, we spoke with another parent whose child had attended the Spectrum College Transition Program in Scottsdale, and learned she later pulled the rug out from under that student without warning or provocation, when the parents objected to a different false claim or offer about a scholarship of some kind, and she simply shrugged off their concerns, leaving them with no other choice but to remove their child unexpectedly. We were also told by former staff that she is in some kind of relationship with a psychiatrist, whereby without the parents knowledge, she an have the child's meds changed at her direction, and he simply rubber-stamps his approval and gives the prescription that she demands, without discussing anything with the parents. We were also informed she also handles the medications very sloppily, and haphazardly. We were relieved that we never moved forward to have our daughter placed there. The stories have continued to be most disturbing as our paths have crossed with another parent whose child was enrolled. Another parent told us that there is a rotating door of students there. They never stay long, because if parents object to her mismanagement, she expels the student. She is known as a bully of staff, students, and parents. We strongly recommend that anyone considering sending their son or daughter here, to look elsewhere, since it's not a good idea to put your Aspergers child under the care of an autocratic bully.

    -1 Votes
  • Oc
    Oceanic Jul 10, 2013

    I went there for the summer program. As someone with Asperger's who has been to 2 special needs summer camps, I can say that the program was not run correctly. Robin wasn't open to dialouge and the staff were dismissive whenever I had a problem (I suspect that's what Robin told them to do). In one of our "community meetings" Robin actually laughed at a student who suggested that 2 activities a day is too much. While I don't agree, I certainly wouldn't have laughed if I was in charge. Also, when my mood started to decline, nobody reached out to me. Any sort of program for kids with ASD should discuss what is going wrong and how it can be fixed. Spectrum doesn't do that.

    To top it all off, I was kicked out for something I didn't do. I had talked about leaving the program but I was never serious. But one night, the door was opened. The beeper thing went off and the police were called, but nobody was inside. I was blamed for it even though the police had woken me up just like the other 4 boys and I didn't know what was going on.

    -4 Votes
  • Pa
    ParentofanAspie Jul 11, 2013

    Has anyone ever made complaints about Spectrum s to any authority or organization such as The Better Business Bureau; Arizona Department of Social Services (or similar department); Arizona Attorney General?

    -3 Votes
  • As
    ASDmom Jul 29, 2013
    This comment was posted by
    a verified customer
    Verified customer

    I don't think anybody has made a complaint to the BBB or any Arizona authority, but I think people would look it up and realize that after four very valid complaints this place is not good and that Robin is just after the money and couldn't care less for the residents. My son ended up going to Chapel Haven West in Tucson and even though he is having a little bit of problem adjusting to the routine and leaving far from home, the staff is incredible and are going out of their way to help him cope, I don't know if Oceanic is still looking for a place (or any of the other parents) but this program is worth looking into. I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed and hope my guy stays put there at least for the duration of the program (2 years). Good luck to you all

    -4 Votes
  • As
    AspieGirl1991 Nov 20, 2013

    @ DoNotEnroll -
    I went to Spectrum for over 2 years during the same time as your son while I attended SCC and it was the best thing to ever happen to me. The staff there are wonderful and always open to feedback and are willing to implement the suggestions of the kids in it. You think she takes the money for herself but every dollar goes back into the program. Robin comes over to see how everybody is doing all the time. She genuinely takes interest in each kids satisfaction and comfort with the program and tailors it to best fit each students needs.

    I would see your son leaving class and just hanging out even though the staff watched him go into the classroom. The staff stay on campus in case the student needs anything. He didn't take advantage of the fact that the staff are there to help him advocate for himself if needed.

    To this day I have graduated college twice and have my own apartment and live a very independent successful life and continue to have a bright future thanks to "Robin Sweet" and her amazing handpicked staff.

    Along with everybody who has commented after you. The only reason they wrote anything is because they don't want to make the first false accusation.

    -3 Votes
  • As
    Aspie Parent Mar 17, 2014

    Best program to understand the complexities of a young adult with Asperger's! Spectrum College Transition Program not only helped our son better understand the social world, but it helped him with his organizational skills, allowing him to transfer to a university in Florida. We only have accolades for the staff for sticking by our son when it looked like he wouldn't make it. We are forever indebted!!!

    -1 Votes
  • As
    Aspie Parent Mar 17, 2014

    Wow! It appears that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! The horrible comments above are obviously from parents and students, who were asked to leave the Spectrum Program. The administration is very particular about who they accept into the program, as they admit that they are not a therapeutic residential center, and simply cannot handle students who are behavioral or who are not intellectually able to attend college. Our son spent his senior summer at Spectrum's Summer Program, and had an incredible time. During the Summer Sessions, staff is observing to see if the student is cut out for their Fall academic program. Our son spent his Freshman year at Spectrum, and will be transferring to Marshall University next Fall. He has made incredible grounds with his ability to communicate and advocate for himself, and academically he is an "A" student. All we have to say is Thank You Spectrum!

    0 Votes
  • Hi
    Highfunctioning Student Jun 24, 2014

    I was a student at the summer program for exactly 1.5 days. "Why this short, " you may ask? Because after simply a day there I realized that this place was not only completely unfulfilling and a waste of my time, but even an unsafe, dulling and sketchy environment. I kept my mother constantly updated on observations, discrepencies and, even the upsides of the program, but by the end of my first day, the totality of my texts painted an immensly unsatisfactory picture. To put it frankly, we were lied to. I have always been a very cooperative part of my own therapeudic process, choosing to go to a wilderness program called SUWS of the Carolinas, which, although very difficult to overcome, yielded outcomes that have positively effected my ability to grow, change and interact with others. So it was much to my dismay that I went from SUWS to this god awful program which is lacking in all important therapeudic and social aspects. Yes, the house is nice, the food is good and the activities are fun, but it doesn't make up for the fact that no socializing, therapy or development actually occurred. There were few striking differences between boys who had been there for a month and boys who had been there for a day. All of the boys would simply do the activities passively, and then they would go home to recede into one hovel or another to game on their computers or handheld devices to their hearts content, with little to no positive intervention by the staff of any kind.

    The only thing that was worse than the actually quality of the program was the fact that I found myself becoming more and more unsafe throughout my time there. What is said about the director is all true, in fact, I think it is put rather kindly. She is a vindictive, evil, greedy, unkind, uncaring and unempathetic person at heart who is simply out for business and has no care or concern for the safety, well being or growth of any of the kids. When I complained to my mom, she ordered my phone to be taken away by the staff which is not only a violation of their policies which allow contact with parents at any time but most likely in accordance with several laws. I was being censored, and only because of lies was I able to relay enough information to my mother to help clear a path of truth through the many lies that Robin and her staff. They truly did lie about many things such as denying that they ever took my phone or told me not to contact my mom or basic complaints of staff negligance such as not engaging with kids or having kids engage, cursing and spending long hours at their computers or their office not even paying attention to the kids. What they did not completely bullface lie about, they exhaggerated wildly. To them, socializing = students exchanging one to two dispassionate sentences every couple of hours, A meal together = two students in a room eating, and a good idea for spending time = sitting in a large rec room alone practicing pool, drums or working out to your hearts content. By the end of my second day, my mom had demanded I be allowed to contact her uninterupted, arranged for a cab to pick me up and bought me a plane ticket home as soon as possible due to a true disgust after a mere two days at the program.

    In closing: I would recommend this program for only the lowest functioning kids on the Autism Spectrum, and even then I would encourage all parents to do a thorough amount of thought, research and consideration before choosing to put their children in the hands of this heartless and incompetent director and her staff.

    -1 Votes
  • Ru
    Ruskie from Nebraska Jul 18, 2014

    The kid that wrote the last review was at Spectrum for 48 hours, and spent the entire time on his cell phone talking to his mommy. He was only 15 years old. How do I know this? I am a student at Spectrum College Transition Program, and I was this kids student mentor. He hid in his room, so I have no idea where he is getting this plethora of incredibly false accusations! This is my second year at Spectrum, and I am beginning my Sophmore year in college. I made some poor choices my first year at Spectrum, and Robin and the staff stood by me through some of my darkest hours. You don't have to believe me, but please check out the incredible professionals who associate themselves with Spectrum. The staff, Officer Dan, Wendy, Dr. Zwier, and the board members like Temple Grandin, Tony Attwood, Sean Barron, and more all believe and support Spectrum. Please don't let these mean spirited, crazy reviews turn you away from the only place that I and many others have found that understand and support our Aspie uniqueness. Thanks!

    0 Votes
  • Ed
    EdConsultant Aug 10, 2014

    It appears that the negative comments were written over one year ago, which leads me to think that there were a couple of students who were asked to leave the program due to either their failure to follow the expectations of the program or they were too behavioral for the program. As a educational advocate, I have successfully placed a number of students at Spectrum, and I have found the administration and staff to be very knowledgeable about this unique population, and address each student as an individually. Two of my student placements have transitioned out of Spectrum into a college and a university environment, and would not have been successful without the care and support offered at Spectrum. It is ultimately up to the student and their parents to be willing to work with any program in order to make it a successful one. I highly recommend Spectrum for the high functioning Asperger's student!

    0 Votes
  • Ru
    Ruskie from Nebraska Nov 05, 2014

    We sent our son to Spectrum for their Summer Program in 2013, and he made such positive strides in 3 weeks that he enrolled for the academic year. His first academic year was difficult, because our son had no motivation or drive to do anything. The staff and Executive Director stuck by our oppositional son, and, as I write this note, he is in his second academic year. There are still struggles, but he has found a niche in Screen Writing only through the guidance of the staff, Program Director and Robin. The communication and collaboration between the staff and parents is much appreciated, as our son tends to skew the true picture of what is transpiring, and uses emotional blackmail quite well. His long range goal is to transition out at the end of Spring Semester, and attend a small film college in Florida. We only have praise for this unique program for unique young adults!

    0 Votes
  • Sp
    speakingtrue Oct 26, 2015

    After reviewing all of the above, it's clear that the program has a lot of inconsistencies and variables. Between the inclinations of the particular student, as well as the director and team of staff members and whatever may be going on in their own personal and professional lives at any given time, the results are going to vary wildly. Most importantly - unfortunately - is going to be the relationship between the parents and the director, which is a business relationship. If the parents question the director, the director takes it out on the student. I know a student who was dis-enrolled for the following year because the director was going through a personal crisis, unknown to the parents, and the parents questioned the way the program was being operated during a period of personal turmoil for the director. As a result, the student, who was doing quite successfully otherwise, was abruptly kicked out the program, which caused him tremendous heartbreak and disappointment. The director did not care. Her staff left as well, since the entire situation there during that period was extremely stressful for everyone. But the fact is, the director absolutely does have a dismissive and at times bullying demeanor, and is not to be trusted.

    0 Votes
  • Li
    Lifeisprecious Feb 28, 2016

    This was our experience as well. Horrific damage done to our son as a result of capricious and impulsive decision making of director. Her son admitted he had robbed our son who was attending the program. The director did not even apologize for the turmoil. The kids attending the program are socially vulnerable. The director on many occasions acted irresponsibly and without ethics regarding our son's medications and ultimately her decisions on changing his meds brought on seizures. This resulted in his need for outside medical attention. The director is unapproachable. My son became extremely depressed. I tried to speak to the director but she became angry and dismissive. On the surface the program has great objectives but the quality of the program was destroyed by the director's poor judgement, lack of ethics and her personal vindictiveness. This callousness caused our son physical and emotional damage. This happened to other attendees as well. Do not trust this program.

    0 Votes
  • Gr
    Griffin Burt Oct 24, 2016
    This comment was posted by
    a verified customer
    Verified customer

    As a senior at Northern Arizona University I was a former student of the Spectrum college program. Without its help I'd never would have made it here. All those complaints are from students who did not follow the rules, were punished and then went crying to their mommies and daddies because they believe they were bullied. The truth of the matter was that they broke the rules, were lazy or did not want help. Good riddance. I personally know the student who went to marshal and he and I had the greatest times of our lives there. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for the times I had at Spectrum. I'm a better person, student and man because of Robin Sweet and her outstanding staff.

    2 Votes
  • Al
    Allison C Oct 05, 2017

    Our initial meeting with Robin and Kelly went very smoothly. The Spectrum home is impressive, the pool, etc. it looks just perfect. When I dug deeper as to how where social interactions taught, she just shrugged it off and said "we just incorporate that 24/7". Our son decided he wanted to try this program out for a year to prepare him for college and beyond. Initially he loved it (he started in their summer program) and found some really good friends to hang out with. Within the first few days, our son was scheduled to see the school psychiatrist. I let Robin know that we had obtained medical power of attorney so any changes in medications has to go through us. I don't think she liked that very much, as I believe most of the kids in this program were on some kind of med to bring them down a notch. They seemed too quiet and compliant for young teenage men.
    As far as activities, I did like that they kept the kids busy with activities, although, sensory issues, were not considered at all. One trip, they took the kids to back room band in downtown Phoenix. Sound is a huge sensory issue for my son. He acted out on this trip, because he wanted to leave the noise. One kid in the group stayed outside the venue by himself smoking cigarettes, my son and two others left and went across the street for a soda and some candy. They got in trouble, which I was in total agreement with consequences but it was how this was handled by Robin and Kelly that started the whole downhill for our family. The counsellor who was in attendance at the band event had given them extra chores to do as punishment, which my son was very ok with, but during the community meeting the next day Robin called out the boys and told them they were acting like little [censor]es in front of the group. That's when I received a distress call from my son. I asked Robin about this point blank. Initially she denied it and then said well, I didn't CALL them little [censor]es but I may have said they ACTED. Like little [censor]es. My son later told me about other times she had called other boys names, calling one kid a "f[censor]tard". As the Director of a program with kids, and especially kids with special needs who are vulnerable, this is completely unacceptable. There is never any time or place this kind of behavior would be acceptable.
    My son wanted to have a meeting with Robin to discuss what had happened at the community meeting. I also asked to attend via phone- (Robin completely ignored my request), at this point she was threatening to kick him out of the program. He met with her - she kept telling him how disappointed she was with him over and over, and how dare you question my authority and if he wanted to remain in the program he was not allowed to question her. He was so afraid that she would kick him out that day if he said no. He knew his flight wasn't for another two days and he would have nowhere to stay, so he told me, Mom, I had to play along because I was afraid she would kick me out on the street. I felt so responsible for putting him in this terrible situation. Shortly after the meeting, Robin sent me a very upbeat message that everything was now fine, and that I should be so proud of my son for the way he handled himself during the meeting and that he wanted to stay on for fall semester. I told her that would not be happening and not to speak with him about it again.
    It is SUCH a shame, because this program has so much potential. If Robin would get herself out of the equation, hire someone who could really work well with these kids and teach social skills, connecting with the kids genuinely, certainly no name calling, and LEADING by example the program could flourish and the kids would have the chance to really learn something.
    My son had this to say about the program. "They treated us like we were less than Whole people because we had Asperger's/HFA, it seemed the expectations for our futures were also less - no encouragement to want more out of life." Except for making a few great friends, this was a total bust for my son. Good news is he didn't need Spectrum to succeed in college. He is living in the dorm, taking a full load of classes for Computer Science, he's in the honors college and has a 4.0 GPA.

    0 Votes
  • Na
    NAUstudent Jun 30, 2018
    This comment was posted by
    a verified customer
    Verified customer

    I am a current student at Northern Arizona University and I have nothing but praise for Robin, Kelly and the rest of the Spectrum Staff. I had the time of my life there. I got into trouble multiple times there because of me not the staff. After a long process I was able to understand that I needed to change my meds and myself to become a much better person. I did that and I am now a Parks and Recreation student at NAU and I'm graduating in December. I also currently have had two jobs and I owe everything to Robin, her staff, the amazing psychiatrists and phycologists and Lt. Dan of the Scottsdale PD who all came together and offered help to all of us. I will never forget my time there. It is very sad that all the negative comments are from parents of students who don't understand that its not Spectrum it was their children who were the problem. They broke rules, caused fights and had no respect for themselves or others. I'm sorry if that comment hits a little too close to home but the truth is sometimes painful. If I could I would love to have joined the staff. The heat during the summer is the only negative I'll ever give to this amazing program

    0 Votes

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