Lakeside Center for Autism uses technology as treatment tool
March 20, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The hustle and bustle at Lakeside Center for Autism is intentional.
Tucked in rooms outfitted in technology both tried-and-true and cutting-edge, children and therapists spend hours each day to overcome the obstacles put in place by autism. The commotion and laughter emanating from behind the closed doors come as signs of success.
Lakeside Center for Autism uses the popular Microsoft Kinect system and other tools to treat the complicated neural development disorder.
“It’s all about participation,” company CEO, president and founder Dan Stachelski said. “Technology can do that.”
Stachelski, a Snoqualmie resident, founded and developed Lakeside Center for Autism after forming a sprawling in-home speech therapy practice across the Eastside. Now, Lakeside Center for Autism serves 100 families and conducts 1,700 appointments each month.
The company has earned local and national attention for using Kinect to treat autism.
Issaquah Chamber of Commerce leaders spotlighted Lakeside Center for Autism as a business innovator in the Innovation in Issaquah contest late last month.
The chamber also honored Impact Studio Pro and Marketing Masters as innovators. The carbon-neutral community zHome also received a nod as the most innovative public-private partnership.
(Lakeside Center for Autism and Marketing Masters share a building along Northwest Gilman Boulevard.)
A three-part series about the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce’s Innovation in Issaquah honorees.
Introduction: City, Issaquah Chamber of Commerce honor innovators
Part 1 of 3: Impact Studio Pro
Part 2 of 3: Marketing Masters
Part 3 of 3: Lakeside Center for Autism
“We’re always looking for different ways to help support kids’ development,” Stachelski said on a recent afternoon, as children streamed into the facility after school.
Redmond-based Microsoft launched Kinect in November 2010 to accompany the popular Xbox 360 gaming consoles. Kinect enables users to join the game through gestures, movements and spoken commands.
Using Kinect earned Lakeside Center for Autism some high-profile attention from CNN, and local newspapers and television stations.
Microsoft even created a video about the center’s Kinect efforts to exhibit at technology conferences.
Before the Kinect reached the market, Lakeside Center for Autism therapists used the Nintendo Wii, another popular gaming system, as a therapy tool. Despite early successes, users at the Issaquah center encountered some limitations. (Unlike Kinect, Wii relies on handheld controllers for gameplay.)
“It was fun for the kids, but it wasn’t quite as responsive,” Stachelski said.
Lakeside Center for Autism also includes equipment usually seen on a playground, such as steps and ladders for climbing. The setup is designed to help children improve mobility skills.
“Our goal is to be able to provide the best support possible,” Stachelski said.
Lakeside Center for Autism serves clients from throughout Eastside communities, but also children from Seattle and elsewhere in the Puget Sound region. Since the Kinect therapy garnered international attention, Stachelski has fielded calls from parents in Texas and from as distant as Switzerland.
“In the most challenging situations, when you provide the right service and the right support, and you see the difference for children and their families, there’s nothing more gratifying,” he said.
The father of three daughters said being a parent offers added insight in his leadership role.
“I think having kids really opens your mind up to the challenges that you face,” Stachelski said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.