Alumnae Spotlight: Jennie Trocchio, Ph.D., Founder of Autism Education and Development Solutions
Jennie Trocchio’s fascination with autism and learning approaches began while teaching special education in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She tells us she immediately saw past the behavior autistic children often exhibit and into the brilliance they have locked inside. After years of schooling, including earning her Ph.D. and starting the first school in Florida that offered the successful DIR/Floortime approach, Jennie is now an expert in the field of autism education.
Jennie, class of 2001, says Holy Child ignited her passion for special education. Her introduction to the experience was volunteering for Best Buddies. To this day, she is close with her “best buddy,” Kate, who she still gets together with regularly. Kate was even a bridesmaid in Jennie’s wedding! She credits former Athletics Director Sheila Wooters for encouraging her to try things that pushed her outside her comfort zone, including heading up a soccer program for children with autism while she was a student at Holy Child.
Today, Jennie is working to spread the DIR/Floortime approach to kids, families and anyone who might benefit from it. This model views each child as an individual and uses a child's strengths to promote development. She is an adjunct professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, and also develops and presents full day, autism-based workshops for other professionals in the field across the country. Most recently, Jennie created ‘Autism Family Field Trips,’ where she gets families together for fun enrichment activities which helps to unite the autism community at the same time.
Read more about Jennie’s experience at Holy Child:
What is one of your favorite memories of Holy Child?
“On my first day of Holy Child, I remember turning into the driveway, ready to begin the 7th grade, and the entire campus had been toilet papered. I was giddy with the silliness of it all and knew Holy Child was going to be a great experience. My father was less entertained, but it felt like a warm welcome to me. There are many other memories, but this one takes the cake!”
Does one teacher stand out to you during your time at Holy Child?
“The one teacher that really shaped my entire experience at Holy Child was undoubtedly Mrs. Wooters. She was the one who initially suggested the school to my parents and hooked me on the idea of switching to an all-girls school. Year after year she guided me, watched out for me, kept me on my toes and involved in sports. When I wasn’t interested in playing basketball, she made me the mascot (for a few games at least!) When I didn’t make varsity soccer, she made me the captain of the cross-country team and then the track team. More importantly, she didn’t blink an eye when I told her that if I was going to be the captain of the track team, I wanted to try hurdles and the high jump. (She didn’t see it as a problem that I was only 5’2 with no experience).”
Is there anything about your Holy Child experience that continues to guide you today?
“In my experience, too many schools these days focus only on academics. Don’t get me wrong - academics are important. But, Holy Child taught me that the real magic happens when we aren’t seated at a desk. At Holy Child, time was often taken away from academics to come together as a class, grade, or school for fun and meaningful activities (including but not limited to: school wide weekly meetings, making sandwiches together, retreats, and Spirit Week). These were the experiences that allowed us to apply what we were learning, to connect with others, to figure out who we were and to come together as a community.
Likely because of these experiences, I am constantly reminding schools I work with that the most important lessons can’t be taught from a textbook or while sitting at a desk, that academics are important but not everything, and emphasize the importance of connection and community.”
What is your biggest piece of advice to a Holy Child student or alumna pursuing her career?
“Find and follow what excites you, what motivates you and what leaves you wanting to know more. Follow that wherever it takes you. Once you have figured out what your passion is, create goals for yourself. Stay focused on what you want to accomplish and work hard to get there. Ignore anyone who doesn’t believe in you and cling tight to those who do. Never stop learning and continue to be curious. Stay present and make it fun!”
Visit Jennie's company website here: https://www.drjennietk.com/
Written by: Liz Palka Minukas '04
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