Danielle Tosti – An OT’s Heroic Action During a Fire Drill Introduced Her to the World of Autism
July 10, 2018
July 10, 2018
For one Hopebridge team member, it all started with a fire drill.
“I live for autism. I always connected to kids on the spectrum,” said Hopebridge Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) Danielle Tosti. “I have a real passion for what I’m doing here – so much that it makes me cry sometimes – and I can pinpoint the moment it began.”
As a teen working at a daycare, she had no prior knowledge of autism, but when she found a little boy who became lost during a routine fire drill, she instantly felt a connection. The whole team had been looking for him. Danielle ended up finding him against the wall in a bathroom with his hands over his ears. He was scared and had no idea what to do, and unfortunately no one really knew how to support him.
“Other kids were easily able to follow routines, weren’t afraid of loud noises, and at the very least, followed their friends out the door,” said Danielle. “This boy did not understand the same ‘rules’ his peers did; he shut down and hid. I felt for him and was intrigued by him. I wanted to help. At that moment, I knew I wanted to work with kids with special needs.”
From there, Danielle went on to get her bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked in a preschool setting with both neurotypical and special needs children. It was here that she gained experience on the behavior side, as well as a social skills and integrated play groups, but she sought to do more from a sensory-based perspective.
Knowing she wanted to take her career in that direction, she researched which types of furthering education she could also gain affordably and quickly, considering she had quite a bit of student debt behind her already. She discovered the occupational therapy assistant program in the Louisville area and completed it in less than two years.
Following school, Danielle worked part-time in a private practice under an occupational therapist she still admires deeply; the person who helped shape her own practice. Helping her fulfill her dreams in another unexpected way, this therapist also introduced her to Hopebridge. The role was full time, and the therapist thought it was a good fit for Danielle, who was eager to dive further into the sensory-integration approach to OT.
“I interviewed and immediately felt it was a match. I loved the Hopebridge360 vision of the various therapies all coming together to support the child,” said Danielle.
To this day, she feels lucky to be at Hopebridge. She spends her appointments trying to get on the kiddos’ level to see what their worlds are like. She believes if you can enter the world with them, that is where the true progress happens.
“No matter what kind of morning or night I had before I get to the center, I walk in, and within 10 minutes of my first session, it turns my day around. I care so much about the kid I’m working with at that moment that I’m not thinking about anything other than what I’m seeing in front of me.”
Besides the kiddos themselves, Danielle thrives on the Hopebridge program’s interdisciplinary approach. By first determining where each child is in his or her journey and focusing on the individual’s strengths together, she feels the team can reach goals in a way that is easier and more effective.
“These kids come here with no expectations. Their parents bring them here, trying to do what’s best for their children, and it’s up to us to help them build the skills that will make their lives easier. It’s an honor for me to care for them.”
Want to dedicate your time to working with children with autism to become a Hopebridge hero like Danielle? Our centers are growing and so is our team. Learn more about the job opportunities available to you.
Favorite way to spend her time outside work: “When I’m not at home, I love mountain biking, kayaking and exploring new neighborhoods and restaurants. Wherever I can bring my dog, Hadley, is always at the top of my favorites list.”
Currently binge-watching: “Old Grey’s Anatomy and anything on the Food Network.”
Dream vacation: “Anywhere I can find the ocean! I prefer to enjoy it from the shore…boats scare me.”
Fun fact: “I was born and raised near Boston and I am a big sister to five siblings!”
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