Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new CNSM Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law.
With a knock on a door and a teddy bear, Kim Hoehne found her career calling at the young age of 19. In pursuit of a part time job while attending college she answered a flier on a bulletin board asking for help working with a young boy with autism. Upon entering the home, the boy handed her his beloved teddy bear, a gesture that he had shown no other, including his dad, and the rest has been literal history. “What started as my desire to help a little boy has grown into a team of dedicated clinicians who share the same passion and goal – helping children with autism reach their maximum potential and the same unshakable beliefs that every child has great potential to learn and grow,” kim beams.
Get to know this amazing Northbrook mother of two children ages 15 and 21, more about how she started in the field of autism support and advice to parents with questions about the autism spectrum. Welcome, Kim!
Hi Kim! Please introduce yourself.
My name is Kim Hoehne, I am the Founder and CEO of KGH Autism Services. I have been working with children on the autism spectrum for over 30 years. I was born in California and my family moved to Illinois when I was a young child. For the last 9 years, I have lived in Northbrook with my daughter Emily, our two dogs Daisy and Buddy, and our two cats Mittens and Prince.
You’re a mom! Tell us about your children.
I have 2 children that keep me on my toes! My oldest, Larry is 21 and lives close by, working as a diesel mechanic (yay to free oil changes). My daughter Emily is 15, and attends Glenbrook North (GBN). Emily is in Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and as a freshman made it to state and nationals. She recently started drivers ed, and is the local neighborhood babysitter.
What are one or two fun facts to know about you?
I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of person. I enjoy a peaceful morning with a cup of hazelnut coffee.
What are your favorite North Shore places, spaces and eats to frequent?
There are so many wonderful places in the area, it’s hard to choose just one. I love getting out to local festivals and community events. A few restaurants I enjoy are J Alexanders in Northbrook, Valley Lodge in Glenview, and I can never say no to a Portillos visit.
What gets you through a tough day?
My playlists – I have playlists to get me going, calm me down, help me sleep, wake me up, remember what is important, or to push me to go an extra song or two on the stair climber machine.
What is your mantra?
“Stay Calm and Keep It Real”
You are the founder of KGH Autism Services. Please tell us more about this practice, when it was founded, who it serves….
Founded over 20 years ago, KGH is a dedicated diagnostic and therapeutic learning center committed to serving children aged one to five with autism. Our journey began with a profound encounter – a young boy’s gesture, offering his cherished teddy bear, ignited a lifelong passion. Today, a team of devoted clinicians shares this commitment to helping children with autism realize their full potential. We believe in the inherent potential within every child and their capacity for growth. Our expert consultants collaborate with pediatric neuropsychologists to provide swift, comprehensive early childhood diagnostic evaluations. Notably, we eliminate waitlists and prioritize accessibility by not mandating doctor referrals or prior medical diagnoses. Offering a free autism screener for preliminary assessment, we extend a personal touch by engaging directly with families. Our legacy rests on transforming lives through compassionate care, unwavering dedication, and a belief in the strength of every child.
What services do you provide? Are services exclusively for children on the autism spectrum?
Our dedicated services are exclusively designed to cater to children on the autism spectrum. We provide a comprehensive range of therapies, including:
- ABA Therapy: Tailored development, play-based Applied Behavior Analysis to foster skill, relationship, and social development.
- Speech Therapy: Targeted interventions to enhance communication abilities.
- Occupational Therapy: Expert guidance for improving everyday skills and independence.
- Mental Health Therapy: Specialized support for emotional well-being and growth.
Our focus is on creating an environment where every child can flourish and reach their full potential.
How did you get started in this field?
When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t have an answer for them until I was 5 or 6. From that point on, I would tell them, “I want to wear Mickey Mouse t-shirts and help kids”. I had no idea what that meant, but that is what it looked like in my mind.
Fast forward 14 years and I’m a 19 year old sophomore in college studying psychology. Needing money to support my late night studying pizza habit, I found a flier on my psychology bulletin board saying work with a boy with autism – $8 per hour. I had no idea what autism was, but was interested because the library was only paying a little over $4. That’s a lot of pizza, I was thinking to myself! So I called the number on the flier.
Next thing I knew, I was knocking on the door of this little boy’s house. Upon entering, this cute little boy, who refused to make eye contact, gave me this worn out, well-loved teddy bear. His father quickly offered me the job. When I inquired as to the rush of the offer, the dad said ‘watch’. He then attempted to grab the teddy bear from my hands and the little boy began what I could best describe as a full blown, no hold bar meltdown – screaming, hitting, crying, etc. Once the decibel level came down enough and I could hear over the ringing in my ears from this microburst of behaviors, the dad of the little boy told me that his son has never given up his teddy bear, and that I was the first person he ever offered it to. I didn’t realize it then, but I found my calling. Or better yet, this little boy, Johnny, found it for me!
Leaving the house with a treatment schedule, I immediately thought, “What am I getting myself into?”
I’ve always been up for challenges and this definitely seemed like one, so why not? Shortly after the start of his in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program, the consultant moved away and the other therapists on his team quit, leaving me as his only therapist. I was forced to quickly learn not only how to teach a child with autism, but also what to teach a child with autism. I worked with Johnny 2 ½ hours a day, six days a week for 3 ½ years. We went through tough times and intense behaviors. I often found myself creating materials from magazines since his family did not have the financial resources to buy the needed teaching materials. We also went through great times, hearing his first words (“shoe” and “ball”) and watching the school bus pick him up for the first day of kindergarten (regular kindergarten, that is!!).
That’s an incredible way to get started. How impactful. When did you open KGH Autism Services.
After receiving my Master’s Degree from Northwestern University, I provided treatment and consultation services to families with children with autism. Working six to seven days a week, I filled up quickly. Hating the word waiting list, I hired and trained another autism therapist. Within months, she was full as well. Hiring, training, supervising, and treating had become my life and I loved it! We moved from a small 1,200 square foot rented space to 2,000. Then as I organically grew my team, we grew in clinic space. We expanded every couple of years and would tear down walls and take the suite that was next to us. Fast forward and I now have a 10,000 square foot clinic in Madison, Wisconsin and a 21,000 square foot clinic in Deerfield, IL, with over 160 employees. KGH has grown 100% organically and I couldn’t be more proud of how it started or where we are going!
What is your why?
What started as my desire to help a little boy has grown into a team of dedicated clinicians who share the same passion and goal – helping children with autism reach their maximum potential and the same unshakable beliefs that:
- Every child has great potential to learn and grow. – Supporting children as they change and grow is an honor and a responsibility.
- Every family’s life changes after a diagnosis. – Our knowledge and compassion can equip loved ones for the journey ahead.
- Every treatment is only as strong as the treatment team. – We owe children and their families the finest clinicians and the best possible care
What is the process typically for parents who reach out for behavioral support? What advice do you have for parents when it comes to whether or not they should seek behavioral support?
Remember, as a parent, you are your child’s biggest advocate. Don’t hesitate to raise concerns with your pediatrician, teacher, therapist, or reach out to us at KGH. Seeking support is a sign of strength and care. No judgment here—just a commitment to helping your child grow.
We typically recommend beginning with our Mchat screener. This tool helps us understand your child’s behavior better. Our licensed Psychologist will then review the results and get in touch to discuss whether a comprehensive evaluation is needed. If necessary, they’ll also provide additional resources for tackling challenging behaviors.
Is autism support the same thing as traditional therapy as received by a psychologist or licensed clinical professional?
Autism support and traditional therapy, while distinct, often intersect to provide a comprehensive approach to addressing the diverse needs of individuals on the autism spectrum. Autism support encompasses a holistic framework that may include various types of clinicians, including those who specialize in mental health services.
While traditional therapy, such as that offered by psychologists or licensed clinical professionals, primarily focuses on emotional well-being and mental health concerns, autism support embraces a broader scope. Autism is a multifaceted neurodevelopmental condition that encompasses challenges beyond emotional aspects, including social communication difficulties, sensory sensitivities, and behavioral patterns.
Many individuals on the autism spectrum can benefit significantly from mental health services provided within the context of autism support. Mental health professionals who specialize in working with individuals with autism can provide tailored interventions that address anxiety, depression, emotional regulation, and social skills development.
Autism support teams often collaborate with mental health specialists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and educators to create a comprehensive approach. This integration ensures that individuals with autism receive a well-rounded package of care that considers their unique strengths and challenges. By combining various types of clinicians, this approach provides a holistic and effective means of supporting individuals on the autism spectrum in their overall development and quality of life.
Autism is a spectrum. Can you please explain that?
Autism being a “spectrum” means that it encompasses a wide range of characteristics and behaviors that can vary from person to person. Just like the colors of a rainbow blend seamlessly from one shade to another, individuals with autism experience a diverse array of strengths and challenges that may manifest differently. Imagine the spectrum as a continuum with different points representing various traits and abilities. On one end, you might have individuals who require minimal support and excel in certain areas, while on the other end, individuals might face more significant challenges and require more intensive assistance. This spectrum concept recognizes that each person with autism is unique. Some may excel in communication skills while having difficulties with social interactions, while others might display remarkable talents in specific subjects but struggle with change. The key takeaway is that no two individuals with autism are exactly the same, and understanding this spectrum helps us appreciate the beautiful diversity within the autism community.
At KGH Autism Services, we embrace and celebrate this diversity, tailoring our support to each individual’s needs and strengths. By recognizing the spectrum, we create a more inclusive and compassionate environment where every person can thrive.
Do preschools typically communicate concerns of autism or is this 100% up to the parent to advocate?
While parents are often the first to notice any concerns, preschools play a significant role in early identification and intervention. Preschools can provide valuable insights into a child’s behavior, social interactions, and development in a structured environment.
What’s on the horizon for KGH?
Looking ahead, our vision for KGH is one of continued growth and broader positive impact on the children and families we have the privilege to serve. Our team’s commitment to providing high-quality, compassionate care and unwavering support for families remains steadfast.
After being out of our permanent home for the last 8 months due to flooding, we are diligently transitioning back to our cherished state of the art facility in Deerfield over the coming weeks. As a celebration of all of the hard work, we are hosting a Grand Reopening Celebration and Community Fair to celebrate our continued commitment to the community we serve.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about yourself or your business that we have not addressed?
KGH has been in the North Shore community for over 20 years, and we are committed to serving the area for many years to come.
What are your contact details? Instagram, Facebook, etc…
Learn more about when and how to seek autism testing for your young child here.
About our Meet of Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here! Contact Mary directly here: [email protected].