Ambassador Highlight: Jani Sblendorio
April 19, 2020
It’s not uncommon for parents to become immersed in the world of autism upon learning of their child’s diagnosis. It’s crucial, after all, for parents to educate themselves so they can be a voice for their child. It’s rare, however, to find a parent who dived in quite like Jani Sblendorio.
After working in the fashion industry for more than 15 years, Sblendorio decided to make a career change after she she felt her son, Val, needed more personal attention.
Her first move was to “start from scratch” and begin working as a teacher’s assistant. She then returned to school to earn a degree in sociology and obtain a teacher’s certification in elementary education and special education. From there she worked as an ABA therapist/Support Care Coordinator in various private- and public-school settings before securing her current teaching position. She now also has a master’s degree in education.
As a teacher, Sblendorio relies on two important principles: thinking outside the box and taking a team approach to learning. She explains that she makes it clear from the beginning of the school year the importance of tying together home, school, and community to her students and their parents. Apparently, her approach is effective: She’s won two national awards for her teaching and exemplary service.
“I am open to learning new things and all of this was to be able to utilize what I know to help Val. Since learning what I know, I have been able to help him make some great strides due to his hard work and the support of some wonderful people,” she said.
Sblendorio’s passion for helping the autism community doesn’t stop in the classroom. She has been an ardent supporter of Autism New Jersey for many years and also runs her own nonprofit organization, United By Autism. The organization has provided more than $50,000 worth of books and materials to support families, learners with autism, and the educators who share their journey.
As much as she’s done for the community in general, her passion and energy are still generated by the love for her son.
“He drove me to switch professions, become an educator receiving national recognition, receive my master’s, and probably go on to achieve my doctorate. It is because of his strength that I obtain mine,” she said.
Click here to support Jani’s fundraising effort for Autism New Jersey.
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