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Burnett family and Tessera give $7 million to Seattle Children’s to support lifelong services for adults with autism

July 25, 2013

Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center will provide resources for adults with autism spectrum disorders

Seattle Children’s Hospital today announced a $7 million gift from Charles and Barbara Burnett and Tessera to help launch the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Program to provide lifelong services for people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

The donation includes the Tessera Center for Lifelong Learning, which will become the new home of Seattle Children’s Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center. The Tessera Center was founded in 2004 by the Burnett family to provide young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities an opportunity to build skills that foster independence and social connections, and improve their overall quality of life. 

The renovated 12,000-square-foot center is set to open before the end of 2013. Seattle Children’s will collaborate with the University of Washington and other community providers to provide year-round, 12-week classes. The classes, co-taught by autism service providers and community experts, will focus on developing life skills, promoting health and wellness, and providing opportunities for recreation and social interactions. 

“Thanks to the generous donations made by the Burnett family, we have the potential to change the face of ASD service in our region,” said Bryan H. King, MD, program director for Seattle Children's Autism Center and director of psychiatry and behavioral medicine. “It’s the perfect collaboration at a time when more people are being diagnosed with autism than ever before and adult services are scarce.”

Family’s gift honors their daughter

The Burnetts’ generosity was inspired by their daughter, Alyssa, who is significantly affected by autism. After completing public school in 2009 at the age of 21, Alyssa found herself without any services or programs to help her transition to adulthood.

“After Alyssa finished school, we had a very difficult time identifying viable options for her as she moved into the next stage of life,” said Barbara Burnett, Alyssa’s mother. “The majority of services offered to adults impacted by autism spectrum disorder simply stop after the age of 21, even though these individuals continue to learn and grow far into adulthood.”

The Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center will fulfill the family’s vision of providing critical resources and services for adults with ASD and their families. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, today one in 50 children are diagnosed with autism. Seattle Children’s existing Autism Center has become a vital community resource and a national model for providing the services and support that families need most. 

“The Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center is a unique opportunity for us to bridge the gap and provide services for patients with ASD for their entire life spans, not just until age 21,” said Gary Stobbe, MD, director of adult transition services, Seattle Children’s Autism Center. The comprehensive Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Program has the potential to be expanded or replicated in other locations as the need for increased services arises.

The Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center will be located at 19213 Bothell Way, NE, Bothell, Wash. For more information about Seattle Children’s Autism Center, visit www.seattlechildrens.org/clinics-programs/autism-center/.

About Seattle Children’s

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit www.seattlechildrens.org or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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