GiGi’s Educator Symposium – An AMAZING day of LEARNING

THANK YOU to the 160+ educators, therapists, volunteers, family, and community members who attended the GiGi’s Educator Symposium on September 10, 2022, from across the US, Mexico, and Pakistan! Together we are truly changing the way the WORLD views Down syndrome and sending a global message of acceptance for all. 

We spent over 4.5 hours learning strategies for teaching individuals with Down syndrome! 

Nancy and GiGi Gianni started the day with a welcoming introduction and amazing inspiration!   

Kathleen Tynes from GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit shared some important facts about Down syndrome. Shari Andress, M. Ed., invited us all to be better teachers, friends, volunteers, and family members just by watching and sharing this 7- minute How I Learn video. 

Did you know that all behavior is communication? At GiGi’s Playhouse, challenging behavior is viewed with compassion.  We see this as an opportunity to teach appropriate replacement behaviors. Vicky McKinney, MS Ed., BCBA, and Cindy Marie Judy, MS Ed., shared simple strategies designed to promote positive behavior. You can view an On Demand version of Promoting Positive Behavior on our GiGi’s At Home website HERE 

Dr. Sarah Mann, PT, DPT, MBA, NSCA-CPT, Katherine O’Neill, MS, OTD, OTR/L, and Kristin Housel, M.S. CCC-SLP, CLC, from GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester shared many “easy to implement and use on Monday” strategies to support speech and motor skills for students with Down syndrome in the classroom. We even got up and did some of the movements during the presentation! Did you know that hypotonia affects every area of development for a student with Down syndrome? Check out the GiGiFIT program. Keeping our bodies strong and healthy is an amazing way to increase learning!   

We wrapped up the day as Shari Andress, M. Ed., and Cindy Marie, MS Ed., shared information about teaching Literacy and Math to students with Down syndrome. Sara Van Deurzen, M. Ed came in at the end and shared ingenious ideas for incorporating literacy and math into the ARTS!   

A huge THANK YOU also goes out to our Education Partners for believing in us and generously offering FREE Continuing Education Credits for our attendees. Our partners include:

  • Department of Teaching, Learning and Educational Leadership at Binghamton University 
  • College of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso 
  • Colorado Shines 

Additionally, THANK YOU to our presenters from across the GiGi’s Playhouse network:

  • Nancy Gianni, Chief Belief Officer, GiGi’s Playhouse National Office
  • GiGi Gianni, “THE” GiGi, GiGi’s Playhouse National Office
  • Shari Andress, M. Ed., GiGi’s Playhouse National Office
  • Kristin Housel, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC, GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester
  • Cindy Marie Judy, MS Ed., GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix
  • Dr. Sarah Mann,  PT, DPT, MBA, NSCA-CPT
  • Vicky McKinney, MS Ed., BCBA, GiGi’s Playhouse Nashville
  • Katherine O’Neill, MS, OTD, OTR/L, GiGi’s Playhouse Hillsborough
  • Kathleen Tynes, GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit
  • Sara Van Deurzen, M. Ed., GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee 

THANK YOU to Daniell Barqstadt and Claire LeBlond for their work behind the scenes to make it all appear seamless! 

If you missed it, don’t worry – we will be back in March 2023 for another day of amazing learning!  

Please feel free to contact us at if you have any questions. 

Here’s what some who participated had to say:

“I felt that each presenter shared relevant information & practical strategies regarding their area of expertise. It was obvious that they are passionate about their work & students.”  Kimberly Thomas 

“The symposium was an imperative experience for my team and me. We have started applying a few of the strategies we learned in the symposium in our classes already. Looking forward to staying connected with GiGi’s team for more learning.”  Khadija Zia Jam 


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