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Happy Mindful People
Elissa Cirignotta, co-founder

How long have you been working in the autism community?
I have been connected to the autism community for 9 years in the role of Special Education Teacher, Behavioral Specialist, Autism Consultant and now as a yoga instructor for kids and teens.

What is one myth about autism that you'd like to squelch?
Honestly, I don't know that I'm even aware of what all the myths are. People with autism, just like everyone else in this beautiful world, are a little weird, beautiful and special with their own unique quirks, interests and habits. One myth in general that I'd love to squelch is that "being different than the norm makes you worth less." I believe that all individuals are capable of living  happy, productive and abundant lives. Let's practice offering acceptance without judgment and offering kindness to everyone, including ourselves!

What makes your business unique?
Happy Mindful People is unique because weave together a social emotional curriculum into a playful and creative yoga flow, while individualizing the experience for all students. We teach concepts like compassion, empathy, coping with fears and worries, gratitude and the importance of kindness and courage through yoga, movement, breathing activities and social skills. We offer inclusive yoga and social skills classes and camps as well as specialized small group and one-on-one classes to ages 2-22. In addition, we provide educator and parent workshops on ways adults can introduce and reinforce mindfulness practices in the home and classroom. My business partner, Sheri Louis, of Mindful Parenting PDX, also offers monthly Mindful Parenting classes.

What are some of your personal interests and hobbies?
I love yoga, cats and sunshine! I'm on my mat every chance I get. I love to ride my bike, practice handstands and headstands everywhere I go, read, travel, write articles, teach yoga, eat healthy meals with friends, take road trips, go for walking meditations and jogs throughout the neighborhood and spend time with my loved ones. I'm a sucker for adventure and I love life. Always reach farther than you can grasp and scatter seeds of kindness everywhere you go!

Tobi Rates, executive director of the Autism Society of Oregon. Sons: Willie, age 14, and Jacob (Jakey), age 10. Willie is the founder of KhAnubis Productions and has his own YouTube channel. Check it out and feel free to subscribe! Jakey is non-verbal and much more significantly impacted by autism, but he is a happy and loving child in his own way.

What is one myth about autism that you'd like to squelch?
That people on the autism spectrum lack empathy. People on the autism spectrum may express or exhibit empathy differently, but it is still clearly present. A particular person may actually lack empathy, but that is not due to autism. Closely related is my pet peeve that neurotypical people don't exhibit empathy towards people on the autism spectrum often enough. It can't be easy to live in a world that often doesn't make sense, yet I rarely hear recognition or understanding of that from non-autistics.

What is your favorite trait of your child on the spectrum?
Willie: kindness, creativity and self-direction. He has very good innate self-advocacy skills and a strong sense of what he wants to do in life.

Jakey: sweetness, tenacity and his sunny disposition. Jakey communicates a lot without having any verbal language and genuinely wants to please, as long as it coincides with what he wants to do!

What does neurodiversity mean to you?
I love the quote I read by Karla Fisher that "autism acceptance isn't giving up, it's giving up 'normal.'" Life is much easier and more fun when you give up normal. Especially for my younger son, it was important to mentally let go of the child I expected to have in order to accept, love and enjoy the wonderful but very different child I was given.

Empowerment Conference by Incight
Tuesday, July 22 | 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Downtown Portland

Designed for job seekers, veterans and students with disabilities to help with: finessing the job search; networking; resum√© development and becoming the best candidate. More information.

Social Skills + Yoga for Kids on the Autism Spectrum
July and August Summer Camps
Happy Mindful People
Contact happymindfulpeople@gmail.com for registration

Social skills and yoga camps for children beginning at age 4. Through modeling, group discussion, and role-playing, participants will learn how to respectfully speak to grown-ups and peers, what grown-ups and peers expect from them under different circumstances, how to deal with peer-to-peer teasing and conflict, how to be a good friend and sibling, and why all of this is important to their happiness and success in life. More information.

Girl Power Support Group
Saturday, July 19 | 1-2:30 p.m.

Moreland Presbyterian Church, 1814 SE Bybee Street, Portland

The Girl Power Support Group meets the 3rd Saturday of each month facilitated by a rotating group of professionals. The sessions are for girls ages 10+ and designed to help develop social skills in a fun, friendly environment. More information.

Aim High Charity Golf Tournament
Friday, July 25 | Tee times begin at 7 a.m.
Heron Lakes Golf Course, 3500 N Victory Blvd

This event benefits ARRO and Imagine Possibilities and features a 4-person scramble, box lunch and awards receptions following the golf. Golfers and volunteers needed. More information.

Sensory Kids Caregiver Support Group
Tuesday, July 29 | 7:30-9 p.m.

Sensory Kids OT, 1425 N Killingsworth Street, Portland

The last Tuesday of every month. Please RSVP: info@sensorykidsot.com. More information.

Use of Augmentative Communication in the Home:
Tips to becoming a successful communicator
Wednesday, July 30 | 6-8 p.m.

Swindells Resource Center
Providence Portland Medical Center, Social Room
4805 NE Glisan Street, Portland

This two-hour course is geared for parents, families, caregivers, in-home SLPs, and OTs to learn some basic techniques in integrating your child’s communication system (from low tech to high tech SGDs) into your daily life WITHOUT creating added stress. More information.

Access Night at the Portland Children's Museum
Saturday, Aug. 2 | 5:30-8 p.m.
Portland Children's Museum, 4015 SW Canyon Road, Portland

Open to children and families with any type of special need, enjoy a free night of play hosted by the Portland Children's Museum and Oregon DeafBlind Project. Cost is free, but pre-registration is required. More information.

31st Annual Special Kids' Rodeo
Friday, ‚ÄčAug. 8 | 6 p.m.

Clark County Fair Grounds, Dr. Jack Giesy Arena

For children ages 6-12, each child is paired with a cowboy to compete in five events: Goat Ribbon Relay, Wheel Barrow Racing, Stick Horse Relay, Wooden Steer Roping, Barrel Race (on a real horse!) More information.

Education Resources

Lifespan Resources

Therapy Resources