giraffeOur Team

 
Aaron Aaron

Aaron DeNardo – OTRL, RYT, CMT – Occupational Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Massage Therapist, Owner/Director

Aaron completed the Occupational Therapy program at San Jose State University in 2002. For his first few years as an OT, Aaron explored working with different populations in a variety of settings. Then he discovered pediatrics and hasn’t looked back since. He has been working as a pediatric OT in the South San Francisco Bay Area since 2004 in private clinics, public schools, and non-public schools. He specializes in working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADD/ADHD, regulation challenges, social challenges and learning differences. Aaron with kid Aaron uses a holistic approach, helping children become more aware of their bodies, thoughts, and emotions. Through the use of intense movement activities and creative games, Aaron supports his kids in developing gross and fine motor skills, self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, mindfulness, and confidence. Woven deeply into his therapeutic style is the use of NonViolent Communication (NVC). Aaron has been studying and practicing NVC since 2003 along with many other personal growth techniques and approaches. He has been leading the weekly NVC practice group at The Giraffe since it opened in 2015. NVC helps Aaron connect deeply with his kids so that they feel safe and understood. This place of heart connection facilitates and underlies all of his work. Aaron has received training in the DIR/Floortime Model, Integrated Listening Systems, Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI), Rhymthmic Movement Training (RMT), Brain Gym, Bal-A-Vis-X, Interactive Metronome, SOS Approach to Feeding, HANDLE, Therapeutic Listening Program, Brazelton Touchpoints Approach, Julia Harper’s Practical Sense in Sensory Integration, Safe and Sound Protocol and Astronaut Training Program. Aaron became a Registered Yoga Teacher in 2019.
 
Alyanna Poniente Alyanna Poniente

Alyanna Michelle Poniente – MS OTRL – Occupational Therapist

Alyanna Michelle received her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Stanbridge University. While attending Stanbridge, Alyanna worked part-time at a transitional program for young adults with developmental disabilities. There, she helped foster their independence in life skills, college-level classes, and jobs. Alyanna also served as Stanbridge’s community service co-chair for the honor society of occupational therapy, Pi Theta Epsilon. She has a passion for building a strong relationship with her clients and helping them reach their full potential. She is the current lead OT at the non-public school-site, Morgan Autism Center. Alyanna strives to provide family-centered care and believes in play-based therapy and collaboration. She has experience in providing sensory-based integration strategies and social-emotional strategies to the pediatric population. She is certified in Integrated Learning Systems, Julia Harper’s Practical Sense in Sensory Integration, Safe and Sound Protocol and Brazelton Touchpoints Approach. In her free time, Alyanna loves spending time with her family and friends, playing with her dogs, playing games, and traveling.
 
Cassie Cassie

Cassie Tycast – MS OTRL – Occupational Therapist

Originally from Florida, Cassie moved to Texas and then returned to complete her master’s in occupational therapy at Barry University in Miami. She was a competitive gymnast for over 18 years, which led her to discover her passion for the mechanics of human movement and how it impacts health and well-being. This ultimately guided her to the field of occupational therapy, and she loves the potential the field brings to people. Now, she has the pleasure of using movement to promote sensory and emotional regulation with her clientele. Cassie has experience working with children of all ages, ranging from 6 months to 21 years of age with various neurological, neurodevelopmental, and neuromuscular conditions in both the clinic and home environments. She also works with children with sensory-based feeding disorders. Cassie enjoys collaborating with families to find solutions to help their children gain independence in their daily lives using play to facilitate skill acquisition and development. She is certified in Integrated Learning Systems and SOS Feeding in addition to receiving training in Julia Harper’s Practical Sense in Sensory Integration.
 
Nina Nina

Nina Caudill – MS OTRL- Occupational Therapist

Nina received her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at San Jose State University in 2018. She has worked with children and young adults from age 2-23 across various settings including outpatient pediatric clinics, schools, homes, public tutoring centers, and non-profit summer camp programming. Nina specializes in working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention-Deficit Disorder, Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, regulation challenges, social challenges, and learning differences. Nina utilizes a holistic approach to assist children to become more independent and confident. She believes in a client-centered and play-based approach to unlock her client’s full potential which is heavily contingent on rapport and trust. She uses her client’s motivations, strengths, and interests to develop gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual motor integration, self-regulation, and social skills. Her greatest passion is to teach her client’s that: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think” (A. A. Milne). She also believes “it takes a village” and strives for collaboration between caregivers, teachers, and other therapy practioners for optimal generalization of skills for her clients. She is certified in integrated learning systems and safe-and-sound protocol as well as receiving training in the DIR/Floortime Model and Reflex Integration Through Play. She also has knowledge and experience wih using Social Thinking and Zones of Regulation curriculum. When not working, Nina recharges through her hobbies of dance, in-door rock-climbing, and traveling.
 
Elana Elana

Elana Candiotti – MS OTRL- Occupational Therapist

Elana completed her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from San Jose State University. Her previous OT experience includes adult rehabilitation in the hospital setting, as well as with children in the school districts. Ultimately her passion for supporting children in their unique goals led her to work at Laughing Giraffe Therapy and the Morgan Autism Center. She hopes to create a fun and empowering learning environment for every child she works with. Her therapeutic approach stems from an appreciation of body movement, play, and providing the just-right challenge. She is certified in Julia Harper’s Practical Sense in Sensory Integration, Integrated Listening Systems, and the Safe and Sound Protocol. She is excited to continue with additional certifications in the future. She has previous work experience as a gymnastics coach, preschool teacher, and personal trainer which provides her with a strong foundation for her work in occupational therapy. Outside of work she loves spending time outdoors, doing yoga, and trying out new recipes!
 
Sabrina Figueroa Sabrina Figueroa

Sabrina Figueroa – Office Manager

Sabrina is a first year Occupational Therapy student at SJSU. She graduated from SFSU with a BA in child development. Sabrina has always worked with kids and has loved every second of it. She believes that as much as she may teach them, they have taught her so much as well! Sabrina entered the early intervention field back in 2018 and her passion has grown immensely since. She cannot wait to continue learning in this field as she begins her OT journey. Outside of school and work, Sabrina loves to travel and go on adventures. She love my dogs, cooking, and spending quality time with her friends and family!
 
Daniella Kovalerchik Daniella Kovalerchik

Daniella Kovalerchik – Office Manager

Daniella graduated from UC Davis with a BS in neurobiology, physiology, and behavior and is getting ready to apply for a Master’s in Occupational Therapy. She has enjoyed working with children ever since she started tutoring in high school and hopes to continue working in a pediatric setting professionally. Outside of work, you can find her indoor cycling, hiking, and exploring museums and restaurants in the Bay Area!