“Make a dent in the Universe” – Steve Jobs

We are at a watershed moment in the world of adults living with developmental disabilities. The virtual tsunami of young- adults who will be aging out of high school and into adulthood is a reality for thousands in the state. Families are navigating the unknown of this next chapter in their adults’ lives and sadly, resources and services are far and few between.

While some may see this as an obstacle, we see opportunity.

Through the new Seattle Children’s Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center, we have before us not only the tremendous opportunity to make a splash in the world of adults with developmental disabilities, but with the collaboration of many other wonderful organizations we are in the position to make a dent.

Recognizing the dire need for increased resources and activities for adults with developmental disabilities, Seattle Children’s welcomes a new program to its 100 plus year legacy of filling un-met needs. Inspired and made possible through the generosity and passion of Barbara and Charlie Burnett, alongside a wealth of others who supported their vision through Tessera, the new Seattle Children’s Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center was born, and will be opening to the public in April 2014.

Located in the heart of Bothell, the Burnett Center will be home to groundbreaking programs and services for adults ages 18 and older with autism, and other developmental disabilities. Emphasizing a recreational model, the Burnett Center will house classes, workshops and events throughout the year in partnership with community providers, agencies and organizations to promote social, recreational, independent living, and vocational training opportunities for adults.

As news of the center spreads, we have been flooded with calls and inquiries from families asking if this program might be a good fit for their adult; and the answer is YES. This is because the structure of the model allows for an array of classes, topics and interest levels to be explored, while keeping in mind the diverse needs, skills and goals of each individual participant. One adult may participate in an art class two times a week to supplement their existing activities, while another member may be interested in stacking several classes a day to create a more robust schedule to address his or her needs, strengths and goals. Class topics might include art, music, yoga, Zumba and other fitness options, or may focus on enhancing more practical skill-building like cooking classes, home management, community outings, resume and workplace training workshops, and more. The sky is the limit for the types of classes, events and activities we will house at the center and we look forward to including your thoughts, suggestions and improvements to help us make this model thrive.

As our pilot classes launch this week, the wonderful team that has supported these efforts and I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about our hopes and dreams for the center, and I personally am brought back to the root of why I am here, and how I have gratefully taken on the role of Program Manager for such a life-changing Center.

My little brother and best friend Mikey, is a handsome nineteen year old boy, with mischievous green eyes and a grin that warms the heart. He also happens to have autism. Years ago he shared one of the most profound pieces of insight any sibling, parent or friend of someone with a developmental disability could have heard.

“I don’t want to ‘BE’ autism anymore.”

Wow. Of course. Who wants to be defined by a diagnosis, or have limitations set in life because of it?

So as we gear up for the launch of this program, I often look at a picture of Mikey framed on my desk and think about what he, and the thousands of other adults living in the state might want in a program?

A place that is committed to enhancing the quality of life of its participants, that fosters lifelong learning and promotes the growth of all learners, regardless of ability level. A place that offers meaningful opportunities to be a part of the community, and that supports the strengths, needs and goals of all participants- from those who may be college bound to those who may require lifelong care.

But most importantly, the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center is a place where young adults and adults can just BE. Be among peers, learners and friends. And where they can be artists. Musicians. Cooks. Gamers. Dancers. Singers. Workers.

And most of all- where they will be happy.

Great things on the horizon for this community… We look forward to embarking on this journey with all of you!

Tammy Mitchel
Program Manager

*Stay tuned for more info on the Alyssa Burnett Center through this blog, and visit our website at http://www.seattlechildrens.org/contact/alyssa-burnett-adult-life-center/.

Open enrollment to express interest in the program begins Monday, January 27th. Please visit our website to complete the intake form and begin the enrollment process for classes beginning in April 2014.

We also welcome you, adults, families, caregivers, and friends to share your questions, ideas for classes and comments at [email protected].