Kindering fosters hope and potential for the very youngest special needs children

The James sisters, from left, Angelina, Alexis and recent Kindering graduate Annabelle at the celebration on Aug. 6.  - Contributed photo
The James sisters, from left, Angelina, Alexis and recent Kindering graduate Annabelle at the celebration on Aug. 6.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Kindering, a birth-to-3 therapy center for special needs children, held a graduation ceremony for 360 children on Thursday, Aug. 6, at the Bellevue Crossroads Pavilion Park. Of those graduating, nearly 10 children were from families residing in Mercer Island.

When most children come to Kindering for the first time, the possibility that they will learn to walk, crawl or even swallow may seem remote. The early intervention programs at Kindering have helped many children with developmental disabilities accomplish these types of goals, and many more that they never thought would be possible. The graduates receive a diploma and a flower to commemorate their growth and success, as family and friends come together one last time to celebrate their accomplishments.

Kindering is a nonprofit, neurodevelopmental center for children with special needs, located in Bellevue. Started in 1962 in a church basement as the Eastside Preschool for the Special Child, and later known as the Merrywood School, Kindering is the only provider of these unique services for families on the Eastside.

“To maximize a child’s potential, early treatment is profoundly important,” said Kindering Executive Director Mimi Siegel. “Research shows that early intervention in the lives of these children correlates with higher lifetime achievement, reduced need for special services later on, and a happier and more fulfilling life overall.”

Kindering helps more than 3,000 children and their families each year with a nationally acclaimed curriculum designed to help toddlers reach their maximum potential, provide nurturing and hope to the families, and build community understanding.

Kindering’s individualized programs include physical and speech therapy, special education, family counseling, a nutrition and feeding team, parenting support and training, and specialized foster care for children who are developmentally disabled, medically fragile or generally at risk because of abuse or neglect.

Helping out at the event were several mother-daughter volunteer pairs with the National Charity League Lake Washington Chapter, on Mercer Island.

Janet Morse, an alumna parent and long-term supporter of Kindering, volunteered with her 15-year-old daughter at Kindering’s graduation ceremony and Family Fun Day that followed.

Morse, whose son was at Kindering 18 years ago, said, “It was nice to come back today and participate in graduation. I enjoyed seeing the children and talking to parents about the fun years ahead. And there are a lot of fun years ahead. A lot of parents are nervous about their kids moving on, but all are going to have a great experience.”

Madison Blackburn, 15, who worked with her friend and fellow volunteer, Emily Morse, on arts and crafts projects with the kids, said, “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s heart-warming. I’m really proud of them for just graduating. I cried during the speech. I want to come back and be a teacher.”

Learn more about Kindering Center

To learn more about the Kindering program, visit the Web site,, or contact their office, located at 16120 N.E. 8th Street in Bellevue, by calling (425) 747-4004.

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