SHORELINE — A few years ago, the Wonderland Developmental Center, a nonprofit that treats young children with developmental delays, began searching for ways to serve even more kids.
In recent years, the center’s staff, which provides in-home support and therapy, had begun receiving more referrals involving children with prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol.
The center, based in Shoreline, has been serving children for 50 years, providing assistance to families in south Snohomish and north King Counties.
“Impulse control, extreme tantrums, unpredictable and outbursts and learning difficulties are some of the issues these children commonly experience,” said Mary Kirchoff, the center’s executive director.
“Our typical strategies often don’t work with these kids,” Kirchoff said.
The data confirmed their hunch: Snohomish County — the Everett area in particular — and the Olympic Peninsula lead the state in expectant mothers using opiates, Kirchoff said citing a recent study.
To address the urgent need, Wonderland will open a new Snohomish County clinic early next year dedicated to treating kids from birth through 12 years old with prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs of any kind.
Wonderland’s Hope Rising Clinic for Prenatal Substance Exposure will be at the Pacific Medical Centers building in the Canyon Park area of Bothell.
In addition to offering a range of therapy for children with prenatal substance exposure, Hope Rising will include a diagnostic clinic that can determine whether a child has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a diagnosis that can open doors for specialized treatment and services, said Michelle Stiller Bradley, Wonderland’s director of programs and services.
“We’ll be the only program in King or Snohomish counties offering specialized treatment for children with prenatal substance exposure, and FASD assessment and diagnosis,” Stiller Bradley said.
A recent study estimates that one in 20 children in the U.S. are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, according to the National Institutes for Health.
Early intervention therapy, combined with family support, can make a huge difference in the lives of these children, who “often have emotional and behavioral challenges that interfere with day-to-day functioning and success,” Stiller Bradley said.
“There is significant shame and stigma around this disability, and one of our hopes is to make it for acceptable for people to talk about (it) and get help,” Stiller Bradley said.
The Bothell clinic is expected to benefit Snohomish County families who now travel to the University of Washington Medical Center for FASD assessment services.
The clinic is in the process of hiring about a dozen staff members, including five for the FASD diagnostic clinic.
Wonderland was founded in 1969 by three women in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood who wanted to provide in-home services to local children with developmental issues.
“They needed help in the home, but they didn’t want to send their children to a residential facility,” Kirchoff said.
On any given day, Wonderland’s team might serve a child with a heart transplant, a speech delay, Down syndrome or autism, or help a premature baby in need of help developing her muscles, Stiller Bradley said.
The nonprofit is supported by a mix of donations, insurance revenue, grants and county and school district funding, including the Edmonds and Northshore districts. Wonderland’s services are available regardless of income, insurance or the ability to pay.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods