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Meet Shawnee Thornton Hardy of Asanas for Autism and Special Needs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawnee Thornton Hardy.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My story goes back to when I was 19 working as an assistant at a pre-school in Boston Massachusetts. There was a young boy in the class named Austin who was quirky and a bit different than the other children. He struggled with peer relationships and managing his emotions. For some reason, we bonded and I wanted to do what I could to help him navigate his world with more ease. Back then there was not a lot of awareness or understanding of Autism but I was determined to learn all I could to help him and other children who struggled with the challenges of ASD.

Years later after obtaining my Master’s Degree in Special Education and working as a Behavior Specialist with children who had ASD, Developmental Disabilities, Behavior Challenges and Children who experienced significant Trauma and Anxiety, I found yoga.

I had experienced a significant amount of trauma and anxiety in my own childhood and found yoga impacted me in such a profoundly positive way that I wanted to share this gift with the children I worked with. After studying yoga and yoga therapeutics, I began to integrate yoga and mindfulness into my behavior programming and found not only did the yoga help the children with attention and behavior but they absolutely LOVED it and were asking to do MORE YOGA! This sparked me to write a book – Asanas for Autism and Special Needs – Yoga to Help Children with their Emotions, Self-Regulation and Body Awareness and develop my C.A.l.M.M Yoga Toolkit with the intention of bringing the benefits of yoga and mindfulness to children of diverse abilities.

I started a Yoga School through Yoga Alliance and I now travel throughout the U.S. and internationally leading training on Yoga and Mindfulness for Children of All Abilities and Yoga Therapy for Youth training. My passion has allowed me to travel to amazing places, to meet people with the most compassionate hearts and to share my hearts work, my Dharma – helping others tap into their own inner children so in turn they can help the children they serve love themselves, accept themselves, celebrate themselves and connect to their unique, beautiful inner lights so they can shine brightly for all to see.

Has it been a smooth road?
I would say my biggest challenge was taking a leap, following my heart and not allowing fear to hold me back from my dreams. I left a 17-year career, consistent paycheck, benefits and the world of “security” a year and a half ago to allow space for me to share this work. Once I took the leap the floodgates opened and so many opportunities came my way. Until then I was working full-time, running 2 businesses on the side, being a mom, a wife and writing a book at the same time. Finding balance is a constant challenge as a business owner and an entrepreneur.

There have been many struggles along the way in this journey of life but I have a motto that life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. When we can look at our struggles and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, it takes us away from a helpless mindset to a hopeful mindset. Everything that has happened in my life is what has brought me to where I am today. The traumatic and adverse experiences I have faced have helped me to see others through a more compassionate lens and has made me the strong, resilient and determined person I am.

My desire is for children to find this strength and resiliency within themselves and to know no matter what has happened in their past, no matter where they are coming from or where they have been, that they have a unique and meaningful purpose in their life, that they are important, that they are loved.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Asanas for Autism and Special Needs – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize in offering training globally on making yoga and mindfulness INCLUSIVE and ACCESSIBLE to children of diverse abilities and challenges. So often children with special needs or neurodiverse children are overlooked or under-recognized and are not given access to the same experiences as “typical” children. I believe strongly in giving all children access to the benefits yoga and mindfulness can provide but it takes a deeper understanding about teaching approaches and strategies that can support children with unique needs.

I also lead training at schools, after-school programs and other educational programs on how to integrate yoga and mindfulness into the school setting or programming and how to make it accessible to all children. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to present at many conferences throughout the U.S. and Internationally on topics related to yoga and mindfulness for youth.

When I’m not traveling I teach private yoga therapy sessions for children and adults of diverse abilities and teach small group therapeutic classes for spinal health and private yoga therapy sessions for adults through my business ABLE Yoga Therapy as well as lead yoga retreats and charity yoga events for individuals and families moving through the challenges of cancer through my collaborative Pow Wow Yoga (www.powwowwomensretreat.com)

I’m most proud of how my company has grown to an international level and that this business that was once a dream in my heart is now a global MOVEMENT with so many around the world attending the training who share a common passion and desire in their hearts to bring yoga and mindfulness to the children and families they serve.

What sets me apart from others I believe, is my combined experience of almost 2 decades of working with children and adults of diverse abilities, my training in yoga therapy, my passion for writing and sharing, my love for teaching, my creative mind that is constantly creating and dreaming, my profound drive and determination and my deep compassion for others.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love San Diego. I’m very active and love the outdoors so of course, the sunshine and access to the beach, mountains, trees, desert and diverse landscapes is on the top of my list! Nature brings me back to myself and helps me find that balance in life and San Diego is filled with beautiful spots to hike, bike, swim or just take in the beauty of nature.

I wish we had more of a biking and walking community with better public transportation. There are too many cars!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Tim Hardy Photography – www.shotbyhardy.com

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Steve

    March 13, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    Shawnee, I love your posting! You have come so far having stepped out in faith to plunge into an unknown that gradually is unfolding to become a known and realized dream! Your sidekick photographer makes the combination just what the doctor ordered. We are all so proud of you two and know that your heart’s desires will be gradually fulfilled with joy and satisfaction. You might even be able to pay your bills as a side benefit! Keep up the good work. Francine is holding down the fort at your pad. I’m working on taxes and preparing to try to finish more items related to our living trust. Complications have solutions if we keep on truckin’.

    See you when you get back. Enjoy your travel benefits while you can.

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