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 and Astronaut Training Program. Aaron became a Registered Yoga Teacher in 2019.
Margarita Margarita

Margarita Gomez – MS OTRL, ATMHP, RPF-I – Occupational Therapist, Advanced Transdisciplinary Infant-Family Mental Health Practitioner, Reflective Practice Facilitator I

Margarita completed her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Tufts University in 2000 and has dedicated her entire career to working with children with special needs and their families. Much of her career has focused on Early Intervention (working with infants and toddlers from birth to 3 years of age), but she has also built strong skills and had the privilege of working in public medical therapy units, schools, assessment clinics, and in homes and embraces both consultative and direct intervention models. Margarita with kid She specializes in supporting the development of young children’s global, social emotional, and sensory processing skills and fostering their families’ abilities to understand and facilitate their unique developmental experiences. Margarita is passionate about serving children and their families and strongly values the principles of infant-family and early childhood mental health. She recognizes that social- emotional learning is the foundation for all development and firmly believes that forming trusting, collaborative, and respectful relationships with children and families is the first step in providing successful, high quality, and effective services. By partnering with children and families, and by engaging them in fun, movement-oriented, creative games and activities, Margarita fosters fine and gross motor development, self-regulation and sensory processing skills, and social skills that contribute to a child’s confidence and competence. Margarita’s approach to working with families is reflective, family-centered, and relationship-based and recognizes that parents are the experts of their child and have critical contributions to make at every developmental stage. Margarita is dedicated to furthering her knowledge and experience and to constantly growing her skills to support the children and families with whom she works. She is a member of Santa Clara County’s Brazelton Touchpoints Training Team, is a California Endorsed Advanced Transdisciplinary Infant-Family Early Childhood Mental Health Practitioner and Reflective Practice Facilitator, and has training in sensory integrative approaches.
Mackenzie Mackenzie

MacKenzie DeLoren – MS OTRL – Occupational Therapist

Mackenzie fell in love with working with children with special needs in high school, and hasn’t stopped loving this work since then. She completed her Bachelor’s to Master’s program in Occupational Therapy at San Jose State University in 2013. After internships in geriatrics, she returned to pediatrics, first as a school-based therapist working with people with disabilities ages 3 to 22 and then in a private clinic. MacKenzie has received training in Handwriting Without Tears, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, the DIR/Floortime model, the Toolbox socio-emotional curriculum, Reiki levels I and II, autism as a psychomotor regulation disorder (combining Neurologic Music Therapy and Sensory Integration) and Brazelton Touchpoints Individual Level Certified. She achieved her 200-hour certification for teaching yoga in February 2017, and is currently working with Reiki Master Kathy Lorenzato of UC Davis Medical Center to achieve her level III Reiki Mastery certification. She firmly believes that relationship is the cornerstone of any therapeutic change.
Elizabeth Calvetti-Garza Elizabeth Calvetti-Garza

Elizabeth Calvetti-Garza – MS OTRL – Occupational Therapist

Elizabeth was born, raised, and educated right here in San Jose, California. She has 3 children of her own ages 13, 10, and 5. Her Occupational Therapy education comes from San Jose State University where she received both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees. Elizabeth has 14 years experience providing school-based occupational therapy to students with special needs in the educational programs of public school districts, private schools, non-public schools, and in-home schooling. Elizabeth has been responsible for interventions with individuals and groups to address specific areas of dysfunction. Elizabeth has administered occupational therapy assessments to determine student’s level of function relative to age and educational placement in: sensory-motor integration, fine/gross motor skill development, and activities of daily living. Before joining LGT, Elizabeth had 7 years experience providing clinic-based occupational therapy having administered occupational therapy program(s) as needed, and 13 years experience peer mentoring. In the course of her work, she was responsible for interns from volunteers through level II occupational therapy students. Elizabeth completed 20 volunteer-hours at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury Unit. She completed my Practicum student assignment at Simoneon Pediatric Development Center, observing Cranio-Sacral, Auditory Therapy, and Sensory-integration Therapy, Supervised by Executive Director, Mary Scholer. Elizabeth completed her first required 3-month internship at San Jose Medical Center working with ICU, TCU, Out-patient/In-patient Rehab, and Skilled Nursing settings. Elizabeth completed her second required 3 month internship at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Barbara Aaron’s Pavilion working in acute psychiatric setting.
Alyanna Poniente Alyanna Poniente

Alyanna Michelle Poniente – MS OTRL – Occupational Therapist

Alyanna Michelle received her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Stanbridge University. Alyanna discovered her passion for working with the pediatric population when she volunteered for Laughing Giraffe Therapy from 2016-2017. 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. Alyanna strives to provide family-centered care and believes in play-based therapy and collaboration. Alyanna has experience in providing sensory-based integration strategies and social-emotional strategies to the pediatric population. In her free time, Alyanna loves spending time with her family and friends, playing with her two dogs, painting, playing games, and traveling. Alyanna is excited for everything to come full circle as she returns as a licensed occupational therapist to where her love for occupational therapy began!

Yu-Hua “Tina” Hsu – MS OTRL – Occupational Therapist

Tina is from Taiwan and is bilingual in English and Mandarin. She received her B.S. in Occupational Therapy at National Cheng Kung University (Taiwan) and her M.S. in Occupational Therapy at University of Pittsburgh. Tina loves working with children with special needs, and has six years of school-based Occupational Therapist experience with children from 5 to 12 years of age, primarily with moderate to severe Autism. She is experienced in identifying the education-related OT needs of handwriting, motor development, and sensory processing skills in the school environment, administering assessments to address children’s needs, implementing sensory motor-based activities/strategies, and treatment plans that are related to students’ functional performance in school settings. She has also received training in Handwriting Without Tears and Sensory Integration from USC Chan program. She endeavors to deliver client- and family-centered care, therapy, and treatment. In her free time, Tina loves outdoor activities, hiking, running, and yoga.

Brandon “Zane” Klassett – MS OTRL – Occupational Therapist

Zane has over 13 years of experience working in pediatric occupational therapy. He discovered his passion for working with children as a gymnastics coach for 8 years prior to and during his pursuit of a master’s degree in occupational therapy. He completed his degree in 2008 from Lenoir Rhyne University in his home state of North Carolina. He has since completed his certification in sensory integration, and is trained in Learning Without Tears programs, Masgutova NeuroTactile Integration, DIR/Floortime, SOS Approach to Feeding, and Wilbarger Protocol. He has worked with children ages 2-21 across various settings, including schools, clinic, homes, community, and gymnastics facilities. He brings experience utilizing Social Thinking and Zones of Regulation curriculum to foster social-emotional development. Zane strives to work closely with parents, caregivers, and teachers to ensure maximum follow-through and optimal results for all of his patients.
Teresa Ponikvar Teresa Ponikvar

Teresa Ponikvar – Office Manager

Teresa is currently a psychotherapy trainee and graduate student at Santa Clara University. She enjoys guiding families through the process of getting their kids started with OT services.