Caravel Autism Health recently opened its first location in Federal Way, providing families with greater access to local resources for children on the spectrum.
“Really, the most important thing we’re doing is improving their quality of life,” said Christine Domschot, clinic director of the Federal Way center (720 South 333rd Street, Suite 130).
“Teaching kids how to effectively communicate their wants and needs … rather than using behavior to communicate those needs,” she said.
Caravel Autism Health clinic works with children on motor skills, adaptive skills, daily life skills, and a range of communication skills. Each child receives one-on-one therapy, overseen by board-certified behavior analysts (BCBA).
There are about 60 to 80 learning opportunities per hour, Domschot said, from handwashing and mask wearing to verbal or non-verbal communication and diet expansion.
Currently, autism is at a diagnosis rate of one in 54 kids every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seattle has one of the highest rates of autism in the country, said Domschot who has been with Caravel for a year and working with special needs children since the early 1990s.
“We feel it’s very important to help all clients, regardless of their background, and that’s an important part of Caravel’s mission to serve families,” she said.
Caravel Autism Health has several locations in Washington, including in Tacoma and Mountlake Terrace. The Federal Way clinic serves children ages 18 and under, with a dedicated focus on early intervention.
Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to learn and grow, is critical in the age window of 2 to 3 years old. An autism diagnosis often comes within a child’s first three years of life, however waitlists for diagnosis and therapy often leave families without resources during this important time frame, Domschot said.
In 2020, Caravel Autism Health CEO Mike Miller said choosing a Federal Way location was decided after learning that some families were facing lengthy delays in accessing high quality services.
“We decided to take action,” Miller said. “Autism awareness has improved, but some children in the Seattle-Tacoma area have been waiting up to 12 months for diagnostic evaluation and ABA therapy, which is simply unacceptable. We want to close that gap by adding a new autism therapy center.”
The Federal Way clinic offers clinic-based, home-based or a hybrid combination of both services for greater accessibility for families, along with consulting for a child’s school or other therapists.
“The more time the child spends immersed in an environment where the responses are all the same, the more quickly we’re going to see skill acquisition and behavior change take place,” Domschot said.
In addition, Caravel offers trainings for local businesses and organizations to become more sensory-friendly and inclusive in their industries and work environments, such as grocery stores, dental offices and more.
“It’s never just about opening your doors for business,” said Chamber CEO Rebecca Martin at a ribbon cutting on Oct. 28. “Sometimes it’s making an impact and a difference in the community you live in, and the beautiful thing is when those two come together. I think we have that now.”
The goal at Caravel is to create an environment where each families feels like they are thriving, Domschot said.
“We are living in a time where neurodiversity is more widely accepted and acknowledged,” she said. “For every child on the spectrum, while they present challenges, they present with other unique strengths or capabilities that I have found unparalleled in their neurotypical peers.”
When there is a connection breakthrough, she said, it is a celebrate of those strengths and an unmatched gift.
Caravel Autism Health is hosting a behavior technician hiring event from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10. Pay range varies between $18-24 per hour, depending on certification and experience. To attend, email firstname.lastname@example.org.