Kid Stuff Diversity Entrepreneurship
FROM DREAM TO REALITY: DreamShip Center Continues to Grow
after hitting one-year anniversary in E.C., their mission is the same: supporting kids with development delays
McKenna Scherer, photos by Andrea Paulseth |
Springtime marks a jumpstart for folks’ goals and dreams, setting up plans and preparing to start fresh and go big. Kids, though, have a special way of treating each day like a new adventure, a new beginning; at DreamShip Center, kids gain the tools to put their best foot forward into their next adventure.
DreamShip Center (800 Wisconsin St., Building 2) hit its own major milestone this past March, celebrating one year since opening in Banbury Place in downtown Eau Claire, and helping area youth of all ages live life to the fullest. A newer space and resource to the area, they’re growing more and more every day alongside their kiddo clients. So, what is DreamShip?
DreamShip CEOs Deanna Aubart and Sara Brunclik first met when they attended UW-Eau Claire and became roommates, each earning their degrees and venturing off into their professional lives: Deanna in the nonprofit world, and Sara in the behavioral analysis space working with individuals affected by developmental delays.
Both being working moms with young kids affected by developmental delays, the duo knew they needed a special kind of place that offered the care they wanted for their own kids. That’s when the initial DreamShip Center idea was born, and in 2019, they opened the doors to the first DreamShip in Cameron.
After meeting Caroline Mather in the summer of 2019, the goal of expanding DreamShip to another area became more tangible: Caroline also had a background in behavioral analysis and an interest in the duo’s mission. The Eau Claire center officially opened in March 2022.
DreamShip offers one-on-one teaching with the center's kids – or “friends” as the team calls them – affected by developmental delays like autism, Down syndrome, reactive attachment disorder, and more. While the one-on-one technique is common in applied behavioral analysis (ABA) treatment, what DreamShip offers is something unique: a play-focused space in a center where other kids are around, as opposed to in-home care.
“HERE AT DREAMSHIP, WE‘RE HELPING KIDS ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS.”
CEO OF CLINICAL OPERATIONS AT DREAMSHIP CENTER
“The play time is very purposeful,” Caroline explained. “We want our friends to request things, get used to sharing, get used to compromising, practice winning and losing, all that kind of stuff that’s hard for all kids but is a little harder (for kids at the center).”
The people who directly work with the kids at DreamShip – technicians – can enter DreamShip if they have a related bachelor’s degree, or are 18+ with a high school diploma. Either route, the staff undergo intensive training to prepare them to spend hours at a time one-on-one with the kids.
With two age groups – the Early Learners (up to 6 years old) and After School (6+) groups – technicians and the leadership staff are able to work on each child’s individual learning plans, created after initial meetings with families to identify what life has been like outside of the center, specific goals, and an assessment that shows the staff where each child lines up with where chronological development typically is for their age.
“Our goal is for kiddos to work on some really hard things in a way that is gradual and kind enough that they don’t realize they’re working on it, and they’re having fun the whole time,” Sara said.
Learning goals can include learning how to communicate positively with others, how to handle obstacles and changes, working on daily life tasks like being safe in the kitchen, or learning how to use bus passes, depending on their individual goals and age. They have had individuals up to their mid-20s in their care, and each have their own specific goals.
“Our general philosophy is, everyone is working on something whether we have a disability or not; we all have our individual goals,” Sara said. “Here at DreamShip, we’re helping kids achieve their goals.”
And while the team frequently says to families, kids, and each other that “the sky’s the limit,” they are also conscious about making sure they don’t let the quality of their care slip ever. As moms with kids who have or have had developmental support, they’re able to truly connect with everyone who walks into their doors. “We know everybody here; every kid, every family,” Deanna said.
And while it is a delicate balance of how many families and kids they can support with the amount of staff and space they have – alongside their own families – the team knows their work is making a difference every day.
While Sara, Deanna, and Caroline all had different answers for what their favorite part of their jobs is – Sara’s being making the kids laugh, Deanna’s running a business that has such a meaningful mission, and Caroline’s seeing parents achieve goals right alongside their kids – it’s clear that this is just the start for DreamShip Center.
Waitlists for the Early Learners age group are currently about six months and about nine months for the After School group, but those timelines could change. Reach out to DreamShip Center today to learn more about their work and the waitlist by calling (715) 598-6100 or visiting the website at dreamshipcenter.com. DreamShip Center accepts Medicaid and various commercial insurance plans. Coverage is verified prior to treatment.