Early in her career as an OT, Janet worked with a young boy who was thought to be deaf. Observing him one day, Janet noticed he didn't react to being accidentally stepped on by another child and he did react when someone behind him opened a can of soda. Realizing he didn't seem to feel pain and he heard the can opening, Janet researched Sensory Integration (SI) techniques which proved to be effective in his treatment. As a result, Janet pursued certification in Sensory Integration. After opening Richmond Therapy Consultants, her sensory integration clinic, Janet was eventually introduced to Applied Behavior Analysis by the Mom of another little boy. This child responded beautifully to Sensory Integration but still struggled with language and social interaction. By adding ABA to his repertoire, he improved which prompted Janet to earn her certification and license in Applied Behavior Analysis. In 2002 when the VA Department of Education heard of the great success Janet and her team were having with combined therapies, they asked her to open a school. Thus, Spiritos School was born. One parent described Spiritos as Spirit with an Operating System which is a perfect description of our approach. Today, Janet oversees a unique program that combines ABA Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Sensory Integration, and Speech Therapy as well as other therapies as needed. She employs a team of dedicated therapists and auxiliary staff who thrive on interacting with and teaching the children who come to us.
Janet Lachowsky, OTR/L, MIS, BCBA, LBA, School Owner/Director
Danielle Damico is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst with a Masters Degree in Special Education from Ball State University. She continues her professional development through active involvement in professional associations, volunteer work with Special Olympics, and presenting her work at conferences. With 12+ years of experience in the field, Danielle has worked with clients in a variety of settings, including residential, school, home-based, clinic-based, and in the community. Danielle has extensive experience creating behavioral interventions for individuals of all ages with severe challenging behaviors and complex disabilities. Danielle is passionate about providing high-quality person-centered services and collaborating with families to achieve socially significant milestones.
Danielle Damico, M.S.Ed, BCBA, Clinical Director
Mahala Gates is a licensed Special Education Teacher with a Masters Degree in Childhood Special Education from Canisius College. Mahala currently holds a Virginia Postgraduate Professional License in Special Education K-12 and a New York Initial Teaching License in Students With Disabilities 1-6. Mahala has continued her education by earning additional education certificates in Childhood General Education and Adolescent Special Education. She began her teaching career as a Special Education Teacher in Buffalo, New York when she quickly realized her passion for student advocacy and educational justice for all students. Mahala has experience teaching Special Education grades Prek-12, General Education grades K-5, and Math grades 5 and 6. Mahala has extensive experience teaching students with Autism, Learning Disabilities, Other Health Impairments, and general emotional health diagnoses. She is reminded of her love for her career when students can overcome their adversities and learn in a way that is best for them. Mahala hopes to continue encouraging students' academic, social, and emotional growth at Spiritos School.
Mahala Gates, M.S.Ed, Instructional Lead
Jessica has been with Spiritos School since 2008, beginning as a Behavior Technician. Her interest in Applied Behavior Analysis was sparked several years prior while working as a volunteer intern at Faison School. Witnessing dramatic progress with some of the children there, Jessica began doing her research into the field. After graduating from VCU with a degree in psychology, Jess spent several years working as an instructional assistant for high school students. This experience ignited her passion and her career included working with children, teens, and adults with a variety of challenges providing ABA services in various settings. Her assignments included in-home, schools, group homes, etc. all of which contributed to her overall understanding of the need for consistency and continuity in working with this population.
In 2014, Jessica became a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst and received her medical license through the Commonwealth of Virginia to practice ABA. Jess is passionate about working with children on the spectrum and finds it very rewarding knowing she can help children and their families lead more fulfilling lives. Serving in a leadership role at Spiritos School, Jessica works closely with Danielle in writing programs for the children, overseeing the Behavior Technicians, and ensuring the programs are implemented properly for the best result.
Jessica Payne, BCaBA, LaBA
Kayla has been with Spiritos School since 2016 beginning her career in Applied Behavior Analysis. She started her journey as a Behavior Technician learning all of the ins and outs of ABA. Thereafter, expanding her knowledge and expertise by completing the 40-hour Registered Behavior Technician course where she then became the school's Lead Behavior Technician helping assist the school's BCBA's and BCaBa's implement various teaching and behavioral protocols to a wide variety of clients and assisting the overall training of staff. In late 2020 Kayla was then promoted to the school's Assistant Director under Janet's supervision, gaining lots of administrative expertise in the field of billing, human resources, and helping the overall function of the school. Kayla enjoys the administrative side of things as well as loving on all of the amazing kiddos our school gets the pleasure of working with.
Kayla May, RBT, Assistant Director
We have an extremely well qualified, fun, and friendly staff who are dedicated to putting the children first. All our Behavior Technicians are required to obtain their Registered Behavior Technician certification within the first few months of employment. At Spiritos School, we provide ongoing training and supervision to insure our children receive the best care possible. In evaluating an applicant’s suitability for employment, the most important qualification is their eyes must shine when interacting with the children. If that isn’t apparent, no amount of education or experience will matter.
Our professional office staff is dedicated to supporting our therapists, children and their families as well as all other contacts for our business. They are available during regular hours of operation to answer questions and are usually your first point of contact. They are happy to assist you in providing information, scheduling appointments, setting up facility tours, etc. They are also often involved in your children’s social skills development being available to practice conversation skills. The children love stopping by the office to practice and the staff enjoy having them visit.