In the newest installment of our “10 Questions With…” series, we spoke with Dina Rizzo-Kormondy. Dina is Eden’s Home Program Coordinator and School Counselor, and she has worked at Eden Autism for 26 years.
What’s a typical day like as Eden’s Home Program Coordinator and School Counselor?
Each day can look a little different, so it’s not necessarily typical. A portion of my day could be spent coordinating with lead teachers about students or meeting one on one with home program consultants about their cases or to troubleshoot ideas about recent home visits. Tracking home visits that have been completed and reviewing home program reports may also be part of my day. I also spend time in the classrooms and help out with lunch coverages, or anything that the classrooms may need during the day. I meet with a few adult services participants for virtual counseling throughout the week as well, which is really nice. Some evenings I may also have an in person or a virtual home program visit with a family or even just a phone call to check in and touch base with them. My responsibilities can really vary day to day.
This month I’ve been preparing for weekly parent training sessions and spending an evening each week meeting with all of our newest families for the mandatory parent training series. This helps prepare them to begin working on their home program goals with a consultant. This is a part of my job that I really enjoy.
The home program department is also responsible for Sibling Days, Extended Family Days and Parent Support groups, which I’m really looking forward to getting back to in person!
How did you first get involved with this line of work?
I found Eden and started in the early childhood classroom as well as early intervention with Wawa House while I was working on my Master’s degree in counseling. When I completed my Master’s, I wanted to stay at Eden, so we built upon the existing home program services that we had here at the school. When I first started home visits were just offered annually, and they were made by the lead teachers. When we started to grow, we saw a need for parents to have more interaction with staff and more hands-on parent training. We started offering monthly home visits for all new families and providing consultants for each new family.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned about yourself since you started working at Eden?
I guess resilience in the different roles I’ve worked in, a lot has changed over 26 years.
What are some of the things you do to help provide support for students’ families?
I really love working with the new families — providing the parent training, those few first home visits and showing them the ropes of what we provide here.
Being in the middle of parent training right now, it’s so interesting to see how much parents don’t necessarily know coming in, even if their kids were in other programs. I actually had a parent say “my child receives in-home ABA and he’s been in other schools, and I had no idea what they were talking about so thank you for clarifying what all this means.”
I really like empowering the parents to let them know why we do things a certain way. That’s the generalization piece, which is what Home Program is really all about — take the skills they’re learning at school and be able to implement them at home with some level of confidence and for parents to be able to start thinking in a behavioral kind of way.
The parent training piece is so important before home program visits start so they understand what the home program consultants are teaching and suggesting. It’s important for parents to know that they are part of the troubleshooting process.
What is your favorite autumn activity?
I just love being outside during this season. I love decorating my house for fall with pumpkins, mums and all the other fall stuff. Doing a campfire outside on a cold night and making smores is the perfect fall activity to me.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I would probably want to go to Italy, it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. My whole family is Italian. My great grandparents came from Italy, and I’d love to visit there and see some of that heritage and history.
What’s your go-to comfort meal?
Probably being this time of year, I’d say chili and cornbread.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?
I think it would be cool to see into the future. I think just to help with good decision making.
What do you want people to know about our students?
I think honestly that every student is so unique and different. They have their own personalities, their own emotions, and we have to keep that in mind while working with kids. They need time to learn and process things just like anyone else, and I think being aware of those differences really helps us to create programs that are individualized to them and their families. What’s going to work within one family unit isn’t going to necessarily work in another.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Definitely seeing the progress, seeing the light bulb go on not only as students are learning things but as the families are learning things. It’s really cool because one of my goals in working with families is to help empower parents, and I think one of the nicest things is to see when they are feeling confident and secure in the way they are interacting with and teaching their children.