By Steve Grant
Donna A. Chauvin Quallen began her ballet studies at age 3. By the time she was 12 or so, she pretty much knew what her life’s work would be. It would not be ballet, but it was through ballet that she found her future.
“I talk to so many people who end up doing something totally unrelated to want they thought they would want to do, or head off to college and not have any idea what they want to do. But in my case, it was really different,” she said.
As a child growing up in Leominster, MA, Quallen loved her ballet classes. Indeed, she wanted to take classes every day, but her family was not in a position to pay for all the classes she wanted at the level she wanted.
“Once I was old enough, my instructor offered me the opportunity to assist in teaching. That would allow me to take additional classes. So it was a trade.”
It was through that teaching that Quallen realized what she wanted to do.
“What I found most interesting was not the children that could come in and just take off and follow the instructions without any adjustment and get it the first time,” she recalled. “The kids that were challenged, those were the ones I really found the most fascinating, the most challenging to me. I would put that as the tipping point for me.”
She decided she would work with children with special needs.
Quallen received her bachelor’s degree from Clark University in Worcester, MA, a master’s degree from the State University of New York at Oswego, and multiple professional certifications at other institutions.
Now, Quallen, a former special education teacher, child-development consultant, and child-development teacher and administrator, has returned to child-development consulting, working from her Devonwood home at 1 Clermont Park.
Quallen’s experience is widespread and diverse in her field, including work with children with traumatic brain injury. “But primarily I’ve worked with families and children to help families and kids really recognize what the obstacles are to their development and what the path might be to help them move forward.”
Her specialty is working with newborns to about age 12, she said.
The children she works with might be having trouble learning in school, having problems managing community sports, problems getting organized at home, problems transitioning from one activity to another, among the many possible difficulties a child may face.
Some children may have been evaluated at school, the parents given a professionally well-done report but one that is “not necessarily a family-friendly document in the sense of what does this mean, what are the implications?” Quallen said.
This is where Quallen can help.
The report might or might not recommend the school provide some special services, or suggest help parents may provide. Whatever the recommendations, Quallen can explain in lay terms what parents can do – and she can do.
Maybe a child is struggling with homework. Quallen can visit a home and sometimes identify impediments to study. An impediment might be something as simple as turning off televisions while a child is doing homework.
“I function on the belief that every child can learn and move forward,” Quallen said. “It is critical that they be given the tools and environment to maximize their potential, whatever that might be.”
And she knows what stresses families today experience. Parents often each have a career, and they juggle homework, after-school activities and youth sports. After all, Quallen and her husband, Mark, who is CEO of Kinetic Fuel Technology Inc., raised three children of their own, Kaitlin, 24, and twins Emily and Matthew, 22.
Contact Donna Quallen at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell, 203-856-4005.