Tessera to open center in Bothell for life-long learning for people with autism

  • Written by Deborah Stone

Artist’s rendering of Tessera’s new center for lifelong learning for people with autism. The center will be open in mid-January and is located on Bothell Way in the old American Legion Hall.
It’s been several years in the making, but at long last, Tessera will soon have a place it can call home.

The local nonprofit organization, which was founded in 2004 by Charles and Barbara Burnett, purchased the American Legion Hall in Bothell last year. At just under 12,000 square feet, the building, which has been going through an extensive remodel, will house the organization’s administrative offices and serve as a center for life-long learning for people with autism and their families.

“We’re very excited about it,” says Inga Paige, Tessera’s executive director. “We plan to initially use the upper floor, which is about 8,000 square feet, and eventually rent out the downstairs space to other nonprofits, behavior therapists or maybe use it for ourselves.”

Paige explains that the center, which will open in mid January, will offer a variety of programs five days a week and include such activities as arts and crafts, music therapy, exercise and team sports and classes in daily living skills.

She says, “There’s going to be a kitchen, so we can work on cooking skills, and a washer and dryer for participants to learn how to care for their clothes. And we’re also going to have a designated sensory room, where there will be all sorts of tactile objects, a swing, weighted blankets, special lights and mats.”

Paige adds, “The sensory room is being created to help enhance the participants’ senses and provide a way for them to relate to their environment. For some, it will serve as stimulation. For others, the experience will help to calm them down.”

Additionally, the center will be a place where parents, caregivers and families can have access to information and the resources they need to live with autism at home and in various independent-living settings. Since 2008, Tessera has served more than 300 people annually through a variety of recreational, social, educational and family-friendly activities. Previously, the organization had utilized various facilities in the community, but now with the new center, all programming will occur at the Bothell site.

“We hope to serve upwards of fifty clients a day at the center,” says Paige. “Autism is our focus and most of our clients are above 21, which is the time when they age out of the public school system. There’s just not much for them after this point. High-quality programs and resources seem to disappear and these individuals often become socially isolated as a result. They either live at home or in group or other supported living homes and they basically become homebound and inactive, cut off from their communities.”

Paige explains that although the organization seeks to reach out to autistic adults, it doesn’t turn anyone away and nor does it set any age limits for participation. “We have adults with a variety of developmental disabilities attend our programs,” she says. “And if teens want to join in, that’s fine, too.”

In addition to the center, Tessera also purchased a rental home in Woodinville to provide residential living for those individuals who are ready to be more independent. The house was remodeled for accessibility and is close to community transit, the library, shopping and a park.

It is currently rented to four young adults, 18 and older, who seek a more independent living environment, and it is staffed around the clock by Special Care Agency Supported Living Services.

“We’ve had the house since 2006,” notes Paige. “It’s really working well and we’d like to purchase several more homes in the future so that more young adults can benefit from this type of living situation.”

Paige adds that down the road Tessera wants to create another center.

“One in a hundred kids is born with autism, so the need is definitely there,” she says. “We want to reach as many as possible with the goal of improving quality of life through enriching opportunities and experiences.”

For more information about Tessera: (425) 301-5048 or

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