August 27, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Jeff Beck 

Co-founder of AnswersNow, an autism resource for parents

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Scott Elmquist

Fresh off his Friday morning team meeting, Starbucks coffee in hand, Jeff Beck takes a walk down the cobblestones of Shockoe Slip, a daily part of his to-do list.

Beck is the co-founder of AnswersNow, a resource and blog for parents with children on the autism spectrum, started in 2017. He remembers camping out with his laptop over Panera meals in the days before having office space at Startup Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to mentoring and supporting entrepreneurial businesses.

Today the team is excited about its upcoming iOS and Android app launch, which provides parents tips specific to the needs of their children and allows them to connect with clinicians over the phone. Beck says the last year and a half has been about fine-tuning and taking feedback. The next step is establishing a virtual parent support group.

Along with co-founder Adam Dreyfus and clinical colleagues, Beck originally used Slack as a way to be an immediate resource when parents had questions. Beck spent years as a clinical social worker, working with children who had attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, anxiety or autism.

The story that stuck with him most was when a mother wanted to know how to encourage her 12-year-old son to say “I love you.”

“It gives me goose bumps because that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Beck says. “I realized that we need to do a better job of really enabling and empowering the parents.”

The current web platform has signed on almost 1,000 parents in the last year.

It has more than 30 clinicians, Beck says, and the hiring process is intensive. Each one is a board-certified behavior analyst with liability insurance prior to going through a series of live interviews and training modules on how AnswersNow works. Some clinicians on the app have 25 years of experience.

Parents sign up for accounts, answer questions about their children and are then paired with an expert best suited for their needs. Soon, each parent will have a personalized news feed on the monthly subscription-based service, in addition to the website’s blog posts with tips specific to them.

“There are families out there who maybe don’t have services because of cost or where they live or because they’re on a wait list,” Beck says. “And Google is not always the best place to turn. We just want to give them that safe place.” — by Sabrina Moreno

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