Thrive! Blog

Snapshot of “Breakfast for Families” Event

The following video is a brief snapshot of the event “Breakfast for Families” presented at Kean University for caregivers and family members of individuals with autism. I was presented this wonderful opportunity to be a key note speaker at this event. I spoke about my family history, background knowledge, and experiences with children and adults with developmental delays and disabilities as well as their caregivers. Throughout my experiences, I’ve noticed that caregivers often experience exhaustion and overwhelming feelings as they juggle with responsibilities of handling a child with special needs. To help alleviate some of that stress, I offered them strategies, tips, and techniques in order to take care of themselves, feel happier, and enjoy their relationship with their autistic child. Continue reading “Snapshot of “Breakfast for Families” Event”


For the first half of this past summer, I chose to do Mommy Camp which is an alternative option for summer camps and is done at home by mom. Even though I work throughout the year, I made sure to adjust my schedule so that I could spend time with my children. However, juggling my children (who I love) and work (which I also love) is just that: a juggling act. So, with a long list of things I have to do which include (but are not limited to) taking care of the kids, handling a business and caseloads, taking care of myself, making dinner, cleaning up, and attending to a parent or sibling in need…how was I to handle this juggling act? Continue reading “Juggling”

Meditation (Blog + Audio)


Focused thought






These are all words used to describe what meditation is and what it consists of.

Meditation is the act or process of spending time in quiet thought (Merriam-Webster, 2017). It is an intentional act used to focus your attention on one thing. Continue reading “Meditation (Blog + Audio)”

My Wonderful Whirlwind of Experiences while Teaching in Israel

This past January, I was presented the opportunity to teach a series of courses and workshops in Israel. It initially began when two therapists called me and asked if I was going to Israel any time soon and if I was interested in teaching a course. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity. My mission is to utilize my passion for problem solving children and teens’ challenging behaviors to benefit society while serving as an example of success that will shape the future of our society. Israel is a place most meaningful to me, and to combine my trip there with my mission was very special to me. And so began this wonderful whirlwind of experiences. Continue reading “My Wonderful Whirlwind of Experiences while Teaching in Israel”

Moro Reflex Integration

Silliness, craving sweets, and aggression. Who doesn’t know a child or an adult with one of these symptoms? Often times you wonder if this is just a phase, and you think about what might be causing it. In some cases, these symptoms occur in a child or an adult due to retained or unintegrated primitive reflexes

Primitive reflexes are automatic, stereotypical movements that develop prior to birth and shortly after. They affect posture, movement, regulation, and engagement. They also establish gross patterns of movement and create pathways for self-expression through movement. They progress to build and blend together to create more varied movements. Continue reading “Moro Reflex Integration”

Vlog from Miriam Manela, OTR: Activities to Increase Focus, Attention, and Learning in the Classroom

In this vlog, I demonstrate a breathing activity called “Nok ‘Em Down ‘N’ Roll ‘Em” that is directly from my book, The Parent-Child Dance. Breathing exercises and activities strengthen a child’s inner core and improve their quality of breathing by decreasing the tendency of shallow, rapid breathing from the belly. At the same time, these exercises often help regulate a child’s body systems by decreasing anxiety, improving hand-eye coordination, and increasing focus and concentration. They would be great for teachers to use in the classroom to promote focus, attention, and learning in their students.

For more ideas on breathing activities, please check out my previous vlog entry: For Teachers: Breathing Activities to Improve Behavior and Learning in Your Classroom.

For more ideas on other types of exercises and activities, please check out my book, The Parent-Child Dance.

Teaching Forgiveness and Compassion

The other day, a sensitive and caring sophomore-year teenager I’m treating called me after school. She had hurt someone else’s feelings, and the other girl (a senior) became angry with her. The sophomore apologized, and the senior told her to “shove it.” She called me almost in tears, asking how else she should apologize to make sure she can fix her mistake. I asked how she apologized, and knowing her, she did it kindly, softly, and vulnerably. My response was that she can let go of the guilt she associated with what she did, forgive herself for the mistake, and allow the senior some time to heal. Forgiving herself also allowed her to forgive the senior who publicly embarrassed her.

When you or anyone else show compassion and/or forgiveness, it does not mean that you absolve the other person from wrongdoing. On the contrary, they are still held accountable for their actions. However, it’s important to note the difference between compassion and forgiveness. Forgiveness means letting go of the anger and resentment toward someone or something. Compassion is a frame of mind. It’s a mindset that all people express, even over a small painful moment, in order to be eased from their pain. Continue reading “Teaching Forgiveness and Compassion”

Board Members of NJOTA and AOTA clear confusion with DOE regarding COTA laws

Trenton, NJ – August 5, 2016. American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and New Jersey Occupational Therapy Association (NJOTA) were notified that two COTAs in New Jersey were fired for not holding school certification. Delegates from NJOTA and AOTA held a meeting with John Worthington, the acting director of the Office of Special Education at the Department of Education (DOE); and Jesse Young, legislative liaison of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Education. Delegates consisted of Chuck Willmarth, the director of Health Policy and State Affairs of AOTA; Tracie DeSarno, lobbyist of Public Strategies Impact (PSI); Debbie Rider, practice chair of NJOTA; and Miriam Manela, legislation co-chair of NJOTA. All members present at the meeting cleared up the confusion and came to an agreement with the understanding that COTAs do not need school certification, but an occupational therapist (OT) is required to have one.

As a legislation co-chair of NJOTA and a practicing OT, Miriam Manela has advocated for OTs and COTAs and will continue to do so.

“Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions”

~ Atifete Jahjaga

For Teachers: Breathing Activities To Improve Behavior and Learning In Your Classroom


For this vlog, I present two breathing exercises that teachers can use in the classroom. These exercises can strengthen a child’s inner core. A child with a weak inner core will breathe mostly with the belly in shallow, rapid breaths. Having a weak inner core could signify a child who has a hard time recovering from various types of stressful input. It could also affect the movement of the eyes, reading, and hand-eye coordination. Breathing helps to regulate the body’s systems and increases a child’s ability to focus and concentrate. Additionally, I have also found that the children I work with in my practice calm down far more quickly from tantrums 100% of the time when they practice breathing.

For more ideas on breathing exercises or even other type of exercises, please check out my book, The Parent-Child Dance: A Guide To Help You Understand and Shape Your Child’s Behavior.

Dream Big, Start Small

You are obviously fueled by an intense purpose: to become a world-class mom. But what is a world-class mother? Research shows that being a perfect mother or at least our version of a perfect mother occurs only 30% of the time. It’s only a snapshot of success with a lot of behind-the-scene struggles. Many moms tend to dream big – to be that world-class mom – but find it difficult to take steps toward that dream. Some don’t even know where to start. This is especially true when a mom has to anticipate and resolve problems, especially unexpected ones.

Continue reading “Dream Big, Start Small”