We have a new Featured Professional to introduce you to! Barbara works with kids with special needs and graciously answered a few questions.
Fun and Function: Who are you and what is your profession?
Barbara Gini: I'm Barbara Gini, and I am a Children's Adaptive Yoga Teacher.
FF: What company do you work with?
FF: What is nature of special needs you work with the most?
BG: Sensory Processing, Autism Spectrum, and others.
FF: What would you say is your biggest challenge in working with children with special needs?
BG: The biggest challenge is coming into a room of children, each with unique needs and abilities, and within those first few minutes of a class, putting them at ease and finding those skills in each of them that I can help them build on. I am always focused on the kids so that I can be prepared to find new ways to adapt the activities and games to include them all so that each child can participate, have fun, and learn.
FF: What is your greatest joy in your job?
BG: That would have to be when a parent, therapist, or an educator approaches me and tells me that "Michael used his breathing exercise you taught him last week without any prompting!" or "Jenny told me this week when I got mad at her that Ms. Barb would tell me to breathe and think of being a starfish [an imagery I use for calming] so that you feel calmer before we talk." When the kids recognize that another needs to calm or knows to use the tools I give them by themselves, that means they understand, and their empowerment and self-reliance is by far the biggest joy to me.
FF: What has been the greatest help to you in your profession?
BG: Networking with therapists and other educators has been a huge help for me, as well as talking with hundreds of families of children with special needs who continue to inspire me with insight and ideas on what types of services and enrichment is needed. I think it is always in the children's best interest when we can all share insight and strategies with each other to coordinate therapies and activities so that skills are strengthened. No one has to feel like they are in this alone.
FF: Give us one tool you would hate to live without?
BG: That would have to be my "Breathing Ball." It's a simple colorful toy, an expandable ball, that I use to teach the kids how to focus and breathe properly. It gives them a visual pairing of the feeling of diaphragm moving (interoception) and a sense of lungs, belly, back, and ribs expanding (proprioception). They can also hear their breath as this happens (auditory processing) so that breathing becomes deeper, fuller and complete sensory experience. This instantly creates body awareness and integrates and calms the CNS. So this simple toy becomes a useful tool and a symbol for the integration and self-calming. I could not live without it!
FF: If you could give one piece of advice to a parent who's child has just been diagnosed, what would it be?
BG: I don't know if there is any one piece of advice but I would definitely tell them "You don't have to be entirely alone in this." All the information is overwhelming and all the feelings of fear, anger, self-doubt, and concern come with it. Let yourself feel it, and then don't let it change your focus. There are so many resources out there to help you and other parents that are on the same path, so lean on them when you need to. No matter how frustrating it gets, take things one step at a time and remember to first take care of yourself.
There is a tendency to overcompensate and put every ounce of energy you have into finding answers. Just remember that you are not going to do you or your family any good by bending all the rules at home or by not caring for yourself. Keep siblings informed and involved, and let them help too even if it's in little ways. They can feel very scared and isolated when rules and routines go out the window and all the energy is being funneled in one direction. Reach out to people and ask for help. If they can't help then keep asking until you find someone who can.
Barbara, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and all the readers here at Fun and Function.
If you would like to be a featured parent or professional, just let us know!