Eastside therapy center Kindering helps children with special needs reach their potential

Redmond residents Mitchell Lee Yuen and Anna Kwan first brought their son Danger, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), to Kindering when he was about 19 months old.

Redmond resident Mitch Lee Yuen is surrounded by young children playing with the bubble machine

Redmond resident Mitch Lee Yuen is surrounded by young children playing with the bubble machine

Redmond residents Mitchell Lee Yuen and Anna Kwan first brought their son Danger, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), to Kindering when he was about 19 months old.

Now 3 years old, Danger has made “amazing progress,” according to Kwan as he and his family continue to deal with the behavioral disorder.

Before Kindering, Danger had limited control over his motor skills and stumbled when he walked. Lee Yuen and Kwan took their son to their family physician for tests. The doctor recommended they take Danger to Kindering, a neurodevelopmental center for children with special needs.

“We didn’t know anything about Kindering and their services,” Lee Yuen said.

The Bellevue-based center ran some tests and assessments and with the initial results, began Danger on speech and occupational therapies as well as general education lessons.

Lee Yuen said these were all the services Kindering could offer at first, but the staff then recommended hearing and sight tests for Danger to see if they contributed to his situation — they didn’t.

The couple brought Danger to a neurologist and he was diagnosed ASD. After his diagnosis, Danger qualified for more services including the CUBS (Communication, Understanding, Behavior, Socialization) program, which focuses on early childhood education, early childhood special education and applied behavior analysis.


According to the Autism Speaks website (www.autismspeaks.org), autism affects how a person perceives the world and makes communication and social interaction difficult. An autistic person may also have repetitive behaviors.

Kindering Executive Director Mimi Siegel said autism has been on the rise and about one in 110 children have it, adding that advances in medicine have helped with early intervention.

“Our medical community is doing a really good job of recognizing (ASD and other developmental issues) and making early referrals,” she said.

Siegel said early intervention is very important in these cases because it makes a critical difference in a child’s development, which is why Kindering serves children from birth to 3 years old.

And to help with early intervention in under-served populations, Siegel does community outreach with shelters, the YWCA, childcare centers, social workers and other social services to train staff and also identify children who may need Kindering’s services.

The numbers have shown that Kindering, which was founded in 1962, has made an impact on the children they work with. Siegel, who was hired on as executive director in 1978, said 97 percent of children in therapy make significant gains; 73 percent narrow the gap between their skills and skills of typically developing peers; and 36 percent leave at age 3 no longer requiring special education.


Michelle Ward can attest to Kindering helping children develop and progress. The Redmond resident brought her son Ben, who had “a lot of sensory issues,” to the center for tests when he was about 18 months old.

Before coming to Kindering, Ward said Ben could not maintain eye contact or play with others and had trouble communicating.

“There was a lot of screaming,” she said. “That was his form of communication.”

Ben, who will be 3 in November, began with occupational therapy and general education classes in September 2010. Two months later, speech therapy was added.

And after almost a year with Kindering, Ward said Ben is now able to sign as well as speak a few words, sit and play and he can even give hugs — a vast improvement for a boy who used to ignore those around him.

“It’s just amazing what (Kindering has) done,” Ward said.

Lee Yuen also saw progress in his son while at Kindering, but added that Danger did regress and lose some skills during the holiday break in the winter. However, he got back on track within a few weeks of returning to Kindering.

“It was very slow and very small steps,” Lee Yuen said about Danger’s progress.


Danger spent 18 months with Kindering before graduating from the program earlier this month.

Kindering held a ceremony for Danger and his fellow 3-year-old graduates at Crossroads Park in Bellevue and of the 356 graduates, 111 were from Redmond.

Lee Yuen and Kwan spoke during the ceremony, telling the audience Danger’s story while he was at Kindering. The couple spoke about the challenges and successes their son had during his year and a half at the center.

“With all the classes and home support, each week Danger’s world got bigger and bigger but we still wondered if he would always need specialized teaching and if his independent learning would ever kick into high gear,” Kwan admitted to the audience. “But a few weeks ago, I had the most wonderful birthday gift from Danger. When he woke up from his nap, he looked me in the eye and spontaneously sang his ABCs…His little song is a testament of the amazing progress he has made in the last year and a half.”

It is these successes and improvements that Siegel particularly enjoys about her job at Kindering. She said she loves seeing graduates move on to lead fulfilling lives.

“It’s tremendously rewarding,” she said. “That’s what excites me every day.”

During her time at Kindering, Siegel said the center has grown tremendously — almost doubling every year. She said they serve about 3,200 families a year from all over the Puget Sound area, but mostly on the Eastside.


In addition to serving the children, Kindering also helps their families.

Ward, whose older son also has ASD, said Kindering has helped her throughout Ben’s development because she was able to talk to other parents dealing with the same issues as her.

For example, when Ben would scream or ignore everyone during the education classes, Ward said the other parents were very understanding, telling her they’ve had similar experiences.

“(With non-ASD parents), you get looks and nobody gets why you can’t just get your kid to sit at the table,” she said. “It’s such a relief to have people get it.”

Lee Yuen said parents are present during the therapy sessions, which take place in the home, and are encouraged to ask questions. Parents’ presence during education classes depends on the class, but teachers are still available to answer questions and Lee Yuen said the staff is very knowledgeable.

“They pretty much walked us through everything from A to Z,” he said about their Kindering experience.

Kindering also includes siblings in the education and development process, Lee Yuen said.

Danger’s sister Syerra, who is two years older, was very involved and Kwan said in her graduation speech that her daughter “was able to communicate with Danger on a level that (Kwan and Lee Yuen) could not.”

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

King County experts discuss extreme heat mitigation plan

The plan includes improving infrastructure and communications to prevent future disasters.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterburg (File Photo)
King County Prosecuting Attorney vows to protect reproductive freedom

Dan Satterberg joins over 80 prosecutors from around the country in their pledge.

King County approves emergency grant after U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Washington is expecting an influx of people seeking abortions from out of state.

Fedor Osipov, 15, flips into Steel Lake in Federal Way during last year's heatwave on June 28, 2021. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Heatwave expected to hit King County

Temperatures will likely reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 27.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII: Examining Auburn police officer’s grim tattoos

Episode 5 in special podcast series that explores Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Derby Days. Courtesy of Experience Redmond.
Mark your calendars for Redmond’s annual Derby Days celebration

Attendees should expect two days of action-packed fun from July 8-9.

File photo.
Former Bellevue teacher sentenced in federal court over child pornography

Department of Justice says the man had 1,764 images of child sexual abuse in his possession.

Photo courtesy of King County.
Officials urge caution when swimming this summer

Cold spring temperatures and larger than normal snowpack have created dangerous conditions

File photo.
Bellevue man charged in 2019 assault that left a man dead on a Redmond roadway

After a two-year investigation, Bradley Hibbard was arrested for murder in the second degree.

Most Read