Photographer: Amanda Naylor
Director: Jen Clark
Director: Jen Clark
When I moved to NYC in 2004, I immediately found a job coaching gymnastics to children. On my first day of teaching, I encountered a 5 year old who wouldn't listen. Thankfully, I thought, I had enough years of teaching that I knew I could get her to follow to directions. Boy was I wrong! About 4 weeks into teaching her, I was finally informed that she had autism. I had heard the word, but had never come across anyone who had it, until now. I bought a book about autism that night and started to read. I spent hours, those next few days, in the bookstore reading everything I could get my hands on. That next week she listened. That next week we bonded. That next week would forever change my life.
I am not a trained therapist. I don't have a fancy degree. What I do have is a love for learning and helping and suddenly it was as if the universe was sending more kids with special needs my way. I started to become known as the 'special needs babysitter'. While babysitting, I would go to OT, PT, ABA, and numerous other therapies with the kids. I sat, watched, listened and learned. The more time I spent with these kids, the more I fell in love with their uniqueness - how they view the world, how they cope with what we would consider 'normal' daily tasks, how they interact with others, etc. It is so fun spending time with them and I am in awe of everything they do and teach me on a daily basis.
I've been fortunate enough to learn from some amazing therapists and schools, including Jen Clark, Kirsten DeBear, Anner Imode, and Cooke Center Academy.
Aside from babysitting, I've taught special needs dance and gymnastics at the JCC, have assisted in numerous therapy sessions and in 2018 created an after school program called, Dancespiration. I am currently working as a ComHab and also assisting at COAST.
different special needs programs
2004 - present
created by Danelle Herran
Cooke Center Academy 2018