It is the mission of Ommazing Kids LLC to provide teachers and home-school providers social skills and calming strategies and provide children tools for self-regulation and mindfulness, in a variety of formats, that will grow with them into adulthood offering them tools for life to build better relationships and manage stress and anxiety.
Mariann’s “Origin Story”
In 1996, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Special Education. This qualified me to teach ESE students grades K-12. I began my teaching career in Florida with children with severe physical and intellectual impairments. I loved it but it was very physically demanding and my husband and I had begun our own family so after about four years, I transitioned to teaching VE, or Varying Exceptionalities, PreK through 3rd grade. This was where my first real introduction to children on the Autism Spectrum began. In 2005, I began my eleven year career teaching children with Autism and related disabilities in self-contained settings in South Florida. This is where I learned how important it is to make social skills an integral part of the school day. This is also where I learned the necessity to expose students to calming strategies to help them learn to self-regulate their emotions, especially those BIG feelings.
As I spoke to and consulted with other teachers in the general education setting, I quickly realized this was not strictly an ESE issue. As
students of all abilities are mainstreamed part to full time in a general education setting, testing expectations increase year after year, and students are encouraged to consider and start planning college and life goals in middle school, the needs and expectations of students and of teachers are changing considerably. Social stories that explain what is expected and unexpected behaviors in a variety of settings benefit ALL children as these pressures increase. Showing students how to move the body in a productive way to get the “wiggles” out and increase oxygen to the brain, which increases focus, is a great tool for all learners. Teaching children a fun breath that helps calm the brain and reorganize the body has a positive outcome on all children, regardless of ability or need. Instructing children how to be here now, or mindful in the moment, not worrying about what happened in the past or projecting into the future, is a tool all children can use at 4 ,8, 12, 16, and into adulthood! The more I incorporated these strategies in my classroom, the more I saw the need and benefit.
After teaching for about 14 years, I started to look for “something else”. At the time, I had no idea what that something else might be. On a personal level, I had begun a personal meditation practice and was learning about mindfulness and authenticity in my own life. I noticed I was able to handle stressful situations much better. I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia the same year I started working with children on the Autism Spectrum. Fibromylagia is essentially over-active nerves that causes wide spread pain, increased anxiety, brain fog, among other issues. A personal mindfulness and meditation practice was significantly decreasing these symptoms to the point of being able to be medication free, which I’ve maintained for nearly ten years now.
It was in 2015 that I discovered Kidding Around Yoga, a yoga program designed for children, and became a certified children’s yoga instructor. I left the formal classroom the following year to tutor and work with homeschooling families in addition to starting my own business teaching children’s yoga classes in libraries, preschools, our local YMCA pre-school and after-school program, community centers, and privately for families with children with special needs.
You can take the teacher out of school but you can’t force her not to teach. Isn’t that how the saying goes? No? Well, toward the end of 2016 I began developing literacy based yoga brain breaks for Teachers Pay Teachers.
It was a way I could tie my two worlds together. I love picture books and so many include animals and settings that made it easy to make it into a yoga sequence, great for kinesthetic learners to increase their comprehension of the story. Adding in fun calming breaths and a few moments of quiet reflection into each brain break, introduces children to mindfulness practices. I found I really enjoyed blending my new world with my old one.
In mid-2017, my family life experienced a BIG change. My husband was traveling a lot with the safety consulting and training business he built. It was putting a strain on many areas of our lives, so we decided to sell our house, downsize considerably, and travel together as a family full-time in an RV with our 2 “kids”, who were 18 and 20 at the time. They were both taking college courses online so that helped with the decision. It wasn’t always easy but I loved traveling with him and enjoyed the freedom it allowed us.
During our excursions, I began developing a social skills curriculum that infuses mindfulness activities, calming strategies, and yoga brain breaks that resulted in a year long plan with 36 different social skills themes.
So now, here we are! Ommazing Kids is here to provide the strategies, tools, and resources to pass onto the children in your life. As our community grows, you will deepen the value by sharing what works for you which may help someone else thousands of miles away with a similar concern. Welcome and may we work together to share with the world many, many OMMAZING KIDS!
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