News & Press Releases

New San Diego Center Offers Multiple Therapies In One Location to People with Autism and Other Disabilities; Unique Methods Pioneered by Twenty-Somethings Who Teamed Up Through Craigslist

Thursday, June 6, 2013 FILED IN: News

For Further Information, Contact:  Stefan Hochfilzer or Matt Winkley
(858) 764-2976

For Immediate Release

Stefan Hochfilzer was 23 when he quit his job as a risk consultant for an insurance company, ditched the suit and tie and followed his heart. Though not entirely sure how, he wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who needed help – not a typical career path for a guy in his early 20s with a Berkeley business degree. And not a typical mindset either – few recent college grads are thinking legacy and the meaning of life.

It took nine months to get his first client.

New San Diego Autism Therapy Center

Then it took a Craigslist job posting to find his future business partner. Matt Winkley, who was 26 at the time, had recently moved to San Diego from Connecticut when he saw the ad. The match up was serendipity. Matt had grown up with parents that owned and operated a non-profit agency that provided integrated employment and community based residential programs for teens and young adults with developmental disabilities. Their programs were so popular it had a waiting list. Interacting with this population was his normal. And he had an education to complement his upbringing.

Stefan and Matt met for the first time in what would become their first office: Starbucks. They hit it off. Matt’s background in social work complemented Stefan’s business talents. They shared a passion for supporting children and teens with autism and other disabilities and they saw the opportunity to create specialized innovative programs that filled a need with the affected families.

They teamed up and created a company that focused on developmental disabilities and autism in the summer of 2005. Stefan was the business guy; Matt managed the programs.

Eight years later, the duo is about to open Xcite Steps Integrated Therapy Center in Sorrento Valley. It’s a one-stop shop for children, teens and adults with autism or other academic, developmental, behavioral and social needs.

They have brought together individual practitioners to provide occupational, educational, speech, and ABA therapies under one roof to offer an integrated approach to treatment. The grand opening is set for May 28 at 5:30 p.m. at 3978 Sorrento Valley Boulevard, Suite 100. ABA therapy stands for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), where empirically based behavioral techniques are used to promote learning and replace maladaptive behaviors with more appropriate ones.

“It’s kind of like going to a holistic spa where you can get the massage and the acupuncture and the yoga classes. You just show up and you’re taken care of,” Matt said. “You don’t have to drive all over San Diego County. Some of the mothers, God bless them, all they do is drive their kids all over to different therapies.”

Xcite is unique for a combination of things:

-Unlike most practices, Xcite takes clients from childhood through adulthood. The youngest is 2; oldest are adults in their 30’s. “Many of the folks we work with, when they are school age, there are a lot of services available. When they age out at school services its almost like the are forgotten about. There are limited services. Jobs are very hard to come by, there’s not a lot of support.

Xcite has helped several young adult clients move into their own individual homes in Solana Beach. They’ve developed a small supportive community of neighbors.

“We’ve helped many of our adult clients get jobs in local places or created unique employment opportunity through our dog walking programs,” Matt said. “We want them to experience the American Dream – have a great job, meaningful relationships in their lives, live in a beautiful home.” Xcite has organized barbeques, bowling leagues and Halloween parties, and even excursions to the Gaslamp Quarter nightlife downtown.

For one of the Solana Beach residents in his 20s who has Aspergers, Xcite provides a live in roommate that is similar aged. “We’re teaching life skills, social skills, how to balance checkbook, make a meal, also how to put a party on, how to invite people. It’s giving them that entry to what every other mid 20’s something has out there.”

-There is no one-size-fits-all solution – each client has a special plan tailored to their individual needs, “Everyone seems to know someone who’s affected by autism,” Matt said. “We’re trying to work with our population in a way that’s very custom, working with the child in meeting them where they’re at in developing programs that are specific to their needs not fitting them into one size fits all approach.” Stefan added: “We are able to create ABA programs to fit unique daily needs of our patients from learning how to ride a bike to finding new ways to communicate through adaptive technologies such as iPads and apps.”

-All of these things are addressed in one place by multiple therapists who consult with each other. Stefan: “The best treatment approach is when all our individual practitioners communicate, and when clients get the same signals from all the professionals so everyone isn’t doing something different. We’re all working together in the best interest of children to help them reach their goals.”

-Xcite uses non-traditional methods and puts a big emphasis on socialization. “Traditional treatment sometimes takes place in stale environments. We’ve gone into the community,” Matt said. “We take our clients to water parks, Boomers, Balboa Park, the Birch Aquarium, snowboard trips, and have community based summer camps. We expose our population to the community and work on social experiences in a natural organic manner instead of a stuffy treatment room.”

-Xcite uses youthful, energetic, passionate, and engaging professionals to accompany them on outings. “What we’ve done is, we’ve made it cool to help people that appear to be different. I don’t want to be cliché, but we’re hoping to make it pop culture for a lot of young professionals to see this as something that’s valuable and meaningful work.”

As of July 2012, insurance companies in California are mandated to cover aba therapy for children diagnosed with autism. Prior to that very significant development, families were footing the bill – up to thousands a year for this treatment.

“This is a huge thing to happen. It makes our program available to many more families, and we are thrilled to be taking this bold and exciting step in opening our center,” Stefan said.
Xcite Steps is a special needs service organization in San Diego supporting, enriching and empowering the lives of kids, teens and adults with autism through a variety of social, behavioral and recreational therapies. To find out more please visit xcitesteps.com




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