The Anne Carlsen Center gives independence to individuals with developmental disabilities or delays.

Established in 1941, its namesake is Dr. Anne Carlsen, an accomplished psychologist, superintendent, teacher, and mentor who was born without lower legs and forearms. The Anne Carlsen Center serves more than 4,000 developmentally disabled individuals through in-home support and assessments, early intervention, adaptive equipment, Taylor Made Living, fundraising events, and much more.

The Anne Carlsen Center’s history is also the platform for its storytelling, demonstrating the impact they’ve had on families over the years.

A powerful discovery

Even before Ryan was born, his legal guardian, Angela, could tell that something was going on. He began a cycle where he would grow for one month and then not grow at all. There were constant ultrasounds to make sure he was okay.

Then Ryan was born. Angela noticed he didn’t make many sounds other than crying, and there seemed to be no interaction with people or things around him.

“He was falling behind in things he should be accomplishing,” Angela said.

When Ryan was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with moderate autism.

“You didn’t hear about autism so much back then,” said Angela. “I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. There is no bigger fear than thinking about what type of life your child will have when they are diagnosed.”


Angela was directed to a case manager through the state of North Dakota and discovered a variety of therapy options, one of which was Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy through the Anne Carlsen Center. Ryan became the first boy in Fargo to receive the therapy.

Providing stability

The Anne Carlsen Center came into Angela’s home and began to show her how to teach Ryan. They taught her how to handle his meltdowns if/when they occurred, and how to further prevent meltdowns by creating a more conducive environment for him to engage with his surroundings.

Once Ryan turned three, he began to attend classes the Anne Carlsen Center in Fargo.

“I can’t sing the Anne Carlsen Center’s praises enough for how they helped Ryan and me,” says Angela. “Before the therapy began, Ryan was locked in himself. ABA therapy brought him out.”


Deeply impacted

Angela says that she and Ryan are so lucky to have the Anne Carlsen Center, and she doesn’t know where they would be without it.

The work of the Anne Carlsen Center impacted Angela so deeply that she focused her elementary education degree on working with children who have autism.

She credits the Anne Carlsen Center for providing her with knowledge that she can now apply in her own classrooms. She has a deeper understanding of what children with autism need and is able to see and understand things that others don’t.

Part of the group

Ryan has come a long way. He is now in 3rd grade, and he likes to talk and tell jokes. He is highly intelligent and Angela says he wants to be an astrophysicist and a storm chaser. She said he already has “science professor thoughts.”

Ryan is also better able to control his focus.

“He is able to live in his own skin and world without being so uncomfortable,” says Angela. “ABA has created a little boy who can be in the classroom and be part of that group.”

Teaching the teacher

Ryan is also teaching Angela many things about autism. He’s showing her that it’s okay for him to be energetic and that his need to release his energy is just like breathing for him.

“Autistic kids need our help,” says Angela. “The world needs to understand that these kids are amazing the way that they are. They do not need our judgement, and they do not need our stares because they feel that too. They are worth it. Talk to them – they will put a smile on your face.”

Purpose to impact

“The Anne Carlsen Center exists to make the world a more inclusive place where independence is a gift for all,” says Eric Wilkie, Chief Development Officer at the center. Through Giving Hearts Day, the center is able to continue their mission and care for an ever-growing population.

In September 2018, the Anne Carlsen Center will open its ninth location in Moorhead, MN to help fill the gap in disability services that exists between Moorhead and the Minneapolis, MN area. This is their first location in Minnesota.

“Everyone has purpose and everyone deserves to be treated with respect,” says Eric. “This is why our expansion is so important.”


If you would like to support the Anne Carlsen Center or learn more about what they do, you can attend one of their many upcoming events or give back in other ways.


Check out this letter of appreciation sent to the Anne Carlsen Center.

Stay tuned for another nonprofit story next week, and remember to live with purpose!

Derek Hatzenbuhler

Author Derek Hatzenbuhler

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