WE HEART: Compassionate Soul, Gretchen Soelling

Photo: Annie Brady

The Ultimate Catch: Intriguing Seattleites

Photo: Annie Brady


24 | Seattle, WA

Hometown: Mercer Island, WA

Occupation: Autism Interventionist & Research Assistant at University of Washington

Why We Heart Them

A down-to-earth and compassionate person, Gretchen’s passion is helping others and learning about them. She attended college in Boston, where she graduated with latin honors and a degree in psychology.

“I have always had an interest in people, their thoughts and behavior,” says Gretchen. “I try my best to understand others’ perspectives and I’ve always been a friend that people go to for insight. I really value that my loved ones trust me like that.”

She currently works at the University of Washington Autism Center, where she specializes in one-on-one in-home therapy with children diagnosed with autism. As part of a research project on a new treatment, called The Early Start Denver Model, Gretchen combines play and individual relationship-based approaches with applied behavior analysis, which she says is easier to adapt to younger children. This model promotes social relatedness and communication skills and the treatment achieves measurable results.

Gretchen truly enjoys helping others and dedicates her time researching and testing this new treatment model. “Each session is two hours long, and I see between two and three children each day,” she says. “In between sessions I write lesson plans, do research on activities that suit each child’s needs and interests, and help to develop any materials needed for the study.”

When she’s not devoting herself to autism research, Gretchen enjoys sailing and traveling the world. She has bicycled across Vietnam and is scheduled to bike across Argentina and Chile with her family this fall.

She is also a serious competitve horseback rider. “I competed in dressage and combined training, and was a USDF (United States Dressage Federation) Qualified Rider, as well as a regional championship rider while in high school,” she says. “I took a break from competing while in college, but hope to start again soon.”

A kind-hearted and compassionate soul, Gretchen is always lending a hand. She has fundraised for Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, as well as participated in the SheRox Triathlon Series, a triathlon benefitting ovarian cancer research.

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