Ronette spent years in Special Education classrooms. As she used mindfulness, deep breathing, and yoga to manage her own anxiety, she began sharing her techniques with her students. The results were transformative and led her to open her own practice, Mindful ABA, where she is a Mindfulness Autism Expert.
We caught up with Ronette who shared her thoughts on mindfulness, special education, family involvement in therapy, and industry trends.
Can you please share with us a little bit about yourself and your work at Mindful ABA?
Sure! I have been working in the Special Education field for over 20 years, most of those have been spent with children and young adults with Autism. The latter part of that I spent teaching preschool to middle schoolers in high needs classrooms, as well as helped children who were mainstreamed in general education classrooms whom had varying diagnoses.
During this time I was dealing with my own anxiety and started researching and practicing more mindfulness practices (such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, etc). I started to see the correlation of my anxiety symptoms with my students who had injurious behaviors to varying degrees, towards themselves and others. Slowly I began to integrate the techniques I was using for myself with my students during transition times. Over a full school year the injurious behaviors went down by about 90%! Their expressive and receptive language went up, their attentiveness, as well as academic readiness increased as well. Their overall confidence and happin
ess increased immeasurably.
What are some trends you have observed when it comes to providing support to people with I/DD at home, at school, and beyond?
A big trend I have noticed in the last few years is people in th
e field and families just getting fed up with the lack of support that is provided to them. There are some wonderful services out there but the access to them is limited for many families, which is very sad. We have a broken system and Special Education is not something that I have ever seen put first in a district. But, with that being said, the frustration that people are feeling are helping them to rise up and make grassroots changes in their community. So we are seeing many more people getting into roles to help children and their families and providing support. This is what prompted me to quit teaching as well. I didn’t feel I could help families as much as I wanted to with all the red tape of the school districts, so I opened my own practice where I could reach more people.
What are your thoughts on the importance of parent & family engagement in therapy?
Family participation with therapy is so important. Each member of the family plays such an important role and therapy helps them learn how they can help the family unit as a whole. I only work with a client a few hours a week so I feel it’s vital that families learn how to work together and incorporate what I’m bringing to the table. My intention is to empower families by teaching them the tools to work together. By finding out your child’s unique learning style, triggers, strengths and challenges and how to draw on each of those to create opportunities for success for your child you are going to b
e more confident when meeting with other professionals to discuss your child. I always want parents to remember that they are the expert on their child.
Do you see technology playing a role in the special education & therapy fields?
Technology, in my experience, is a very underutilized tool in Special Education. There are some fantastic supports out there for students that have the potential to increase language, connections with peers, and accommodating different learning styles. I love going into a classroom and seeing how teachers are using things like iPads or Smartboards to engage their students more and enhance learning.
How do you see mindfulness-based practices growing in the next few years?
I see mindfulness being brought into places we hadn’t thought of before and it gives me a lot of hope. Teaching these simple, yet rich, techniques is not only going to help a child who is dealing with anxiety but down the road, they have this positive approach to a stressor so they won’t turn to behaviors that are destructive. When you feel good about yourself, when you respect and appreciate who you are and your unique gifts, you are more likely to engage in positive behaviors.
What makes you most excited about your work?
I’m a natural problem solver, and I love finding creative ways to solve what seems like an obstacle. I also love what I learn from my students and clients; they really bring so much joy into my life. I love the look on someone’s face when they have accomplished something they didn’t think they could.
What is next for you at Mindful ABA?
Right now I’m focusing a lot on the Mindful ABA Education Library. This is a platform that is available on my website and was created because I had so many families who didn’t live in my area asking me to help them. So I created the Mindful ABA Education Library that is accessible to anyone in the world. It addresses a variety of topics from developmental milestones, what to do and where to go if you are noticing some developmental delays with your child, different behavioral challenges, as well as your role and rights in your child’s educational team meeting at school. This summer I covered different places to go all over the country that were sensory friendly and provided some tr