« Blog

Spectrum Designs is a nonprofit custom merchandise company whose mission is to create meaningful and inclusive employment opportunities for people on the Autism Spectrum.

The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) is proud to call Spectrum its partner, using their services as its primary provider of promotional materials.

“Our collaboration with the IOCDF has spanned numerous projects, from apparel to promotional items and beyond,” Spectrum Co-Founder & CEO, Patrick Bardsley, said. “The knowledge that our merchandise aids a worthy cause brings immense satisfaction to our team.”

The IOCDF began working with Spectrum back in 2014, when they were led to the nonprofit by Fred Penzel, PhD, a member of the IOCDF’s Scientific and Clinical Advisory Board (SCB). 

Penzel discovered the organization when looking for “meaningful employment for our son, Joe as he was nearing the end of high school.” “Unfortunately, no one wanted to hire a person like him who happened to be autistic, no matter what his capabilities were.”

Describing the situation as seemingly “hopeless,” Penzel discovered Spectrum Designs while reading his local newspaper.

“I saw a small article about an organization that had just received a federal grant to help them hire people on the Autism Spectrum. It happened to be Spectrum and sounded promising. We looked up the organization and they invited Joe to come in for an interview. The rest is history.”

Penzel explained there were two primary reasons he sought to connect Spectrum and the IOCDF. 

“One was that I am always on the lookout for potential sources of business for Spectrum as they give worthwhile employment to a group of people who are seriously in need of work,” Penzel explained. “Approximately 90% of people on the Autism Spectrum are unemployed or under-employed. We do everything we can to support Spectrum's efforts to help change this,” Penzel said. 

“The second reason was that both Spectrum and the IOCDF are nonprofits seeking to help those who need the resources to help themselves. I believe, therefore, that worthwhile organizations such as these should help each other out whenever possible. The more such organizations network, the stronger they become as a group,” Penzel continued.

The special relationship between Spectrum and the IOCDF has certainly strengthened both organizations, with the two coming together to support one another’s missions and shared goals.

“The IOCDF’s mission is important to us and one that we are happy to support however possible,” Bardsley said.

“It's a true alignment of missions when we partner with the IOCDF, as it enables us to provide meaningful employment for our neurodiverse team while supporting a cause close to our hearts.”

As Bardsley explained, “Autism and OCD are linked, as some studies have found that autistic individuals are much more likely to have an anxiety-related condition than their neurotypical peers. One study by PLOS One found that an estimated 17% of people on the Autism Spectrum also have OCD.”

“The work that the IOCDF does in raising awareness and fostering open conversations about OCD is incredibly valuable and extends its benefits to the Autism community and other neurodiverse individuals,” Bardsley explained. 

“At Spectrum Designs, our employees gain immensely from these efforts, as they contribute to a more inclusive environment where discussions about neurodiversity are normalized and embraced.”

As for its own objectives, Spectrum remains steadfast in its mission to forge career paths for adults on the Autism Spectrum and to champion neurodiverse employment.

Their latest initiative called “Out of the Box” was launched during Autism Acceptance Month. The initiative challenges the stereotypes that often overshadow the unique abilities of individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

“This campaign emerged from the diverse perspectives across our organization, sparked by the real-life experiences of one of our gifted neurodiverse team members, who starred in our newest television commercial,” Bardsley said.

“It's a testament to the creativity and insights that diversity brings to our organization,” Bardsley said.

The goal of the “Out of the Box” initiative is to reach new audiences, share Spectrum’s vision, and highlight the exceptional talents within the neurodiverse community. 

“It's more than a campaign; it's a movement to showcase the potential and skills that neurodiversity brings to the workforce,” Bardsley said. 

Over the years, Spectrum’s efforts have made a significant impact. 

“It’s easy to tell the difference we’ve made in people's lives just by looking at the smiles on our team members' faces,” Bardsley said.

Spectrum considers itself a business born out of necessity. 

“A moment that directly inspired the business was a heart-wrenching conversation I had with the parents of a recent high school graduate who was on the Autism Spectrum,” Bardsley said. 

“They told me that they wished they could live just one day longer than their son. That way, they could always be around to support and care for him as he lived out his life,” Bardsley detailed. 

Stories like that, Spectrum said, are what inspired their three co-founders to found the organization. “To create a place where adults on the Autism Spectrum could have careers and access all the countless benefits of employment. A real paycheck, independence, and inherent self-worth,” Bardsley said. 

“For our team, earning their own money means they're not just part of Spectrum Designs, but active, contributing members of the community, supporting local businesses and enjoying all that our area has to offer. It's about creating a positive impact that goes beyond the workplace,” Bardsley explained.

“Engaging with mission-driven organizations like the IOCDF epitomizes a win-win scenario: we contribute to a noble cause while simultaneously offering our team valuable hours of paid employment. It's a synergy that amplifies our impact and affirms our commitment to both our team and the broader mission.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *