Ciara Thomson has expressed an affinity and passion for helping others overcome their challenges to live their best lives since she was a child. The only daughter of rodeo champions, she spent her early years shadowing her parents while they competed in the equestrian arena and raised Championship American Quarterhorses.
At three months old, Ciara had her first horseback ride, where her father led her gentle mare, and her mother supported her, alongside, in a custom-made baby saddle. This first ride led to many more, and by three, Ciara was competing in rodeos across the Southwest. Everyone thought she would follow in her parents’ footsteps, but as much as she loved horses, a pivotal event profoundly impacted her, and ultimately fueled her desire to serve and advocate for children and adults with special needs.
In Kindergarten, a group of students bullied a classmate and held her down on the soccer field while spitting at her. Without hesitation, Ciara pushed through the crowd, lifted the kids off her, and carried her to the nurse’s office. As the nurse tended her wounds, the girl screamed and cried inconsolably, so Ciara tried to help. She noticed the girl’s socks had Miss Piggy socks on them, so she grabbed some tongue depressors and created an impromptu Muppets puppet show. Ciara continued acting out episodes, using the depressors to represent Miss Piggy, Kermit, and Gonzo, and eventually, the little girl’s screams turned into bursts of laughter, she grabbed a depressor and started acting out the Muppet Show, too, and told the nurse that she felt well enough to return to class. After school, the nurse ran up to Ciara’s mom and shared what happened, and told her that Corinne was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. On the drive home, Ciara asked her mom what Cerebral Palsy was; her mom said she only knew a few things about it, but if Ciara wanted to be able to help her as much as she could, they should probably stop by the library and check out books to learn more. Through this experience, Ciara learned the importance of education and the impact it can have when applied to improve others’ lives. From that day forward, Ciara has spent her life learning how to best assist, support, and empower special needs children, adults, and their families to embrace and celebrate their challenges, and seize every opportunity to create their best, most abundant, and beautiful life.
With over 20 years of post-secondary education, Ciara has earned three degrees from Arizona State University (Bachelors of Science in Biology, Psychology, and Interpersonal Communication, respectively), has gone to dental school to earn her NBDE I Certificate through ASDOH Doctor of Dental Medicine program, enrolled in law school to educate herself on special needs advocacy, and has completed several credits towards her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. Parallel to her academic pursuits, Ciara has been blessed with ten beautiful children. Her eldest daughter, born in 1998, was diagnosed with Hypotonic Diplegia, a form of Cerebral Palsy when she was 15 months old. This started Ciara’s own personal experience and understanding of the complex world of pediatric therapy for special needs children, and her own decision to become a Respite and Habilitation Provider for an agency contracted with DDD. God knew how big Ciara’s heart is for children with special needs, and in addition to her gorgeous daughter, he has given her a son, 17, diagnosed with PDD-NOS (now designated as Level 1 Autism), Sensory Processing Disorder, and ADHD; a daughter, 12, with Level 1 Autism and ADHD; a daughter, 9, with Level 2 Autism, PICA, and ADHD; a son, 8, with Level 3 Autism and ADHD; a son, 5, with Level 3 Autism and ADHD; and a daughter, 3, with Level 1 Autism, SPD, ADHD, and Epilepsy. Her experiences as a concerned and protective mother, advocate, and friend of each and every one of her children has given her insight, understanding, empathy, knowledge, and skills to not only help her own children thrive despite their challenges, it has given her the deep-seeded compassion and resolve to support other families who have a loved one with special needs. As a mother who has been desperate to offer her children relief, healing, growth, and empowerment, she has dedicated hundreds, if not thousands, of hours, educating herself on what modalities provide the best support for children in variable elements. While her personal and professional experience with special needs children is broad and encompasses nearly every special needs condition and dynamic, the modality that she has seen offer the greatest benefit to children and their families is personal training and exercise therapy. When doctors told her that her eldest daughter would never walk, she hired a personal trainer to work with her, and within the year, she was walking with AFO’s (from which she graduated from by age 3), and now, as an adult, she has performed as a dancer, regularly implements fitness strategies to mitigate her condition, and is actually able to outrun her younger brothers! As a believer in the powerful impact that fitness training can bestow onto special needs children, Ciara has actively pursued her education and credentials in the fitness arena. She is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and certified in Personal Training and Advanced Nutrition through Action; she is also a Certified Special Strong Trainer through Special Strong and is pursuing a certification as a Certified Human Movement Specialist through Brookbush Institute of Human Movement. Ciara has also taken extensive courses to expand her knowledge and understanding of physical, developmental, and behavioral conditions impacting special needs children. She has worked with children who have been diagnosed with Autism (she currently holds a Certificate in Autism Awareness), Cerebral Palsy, Dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorders, Speech and Articulation Disorders, Asthma, MS, epilepsy, PTSD, mutism, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, SMI, ODD, and OCD. She is committed to helping children progress because she has personally been changed by the impact exercise has on her own family.
Most recently, Ciara implemented exercise to connect with her once nonverbal five-year-old son. Within one day, he went from a chaotic boy exhibiting severe meltdowns and destroying things within his reach, to asking to hug and hold hands with Ciara (which he has not done for years). While he has been in other therapies (which are much loved and appreciated), the changes he has experienced since he started exercising have been monumental! He has started responding to receptive language, is effectively communicating with his family; and continues to improve daily! Ciara has witnessed these, and many other benefits through implementing and facilitating exercise modalities with her own, and other, special needs children, is an absolute and avid believer in the power of this life-changing venue, and is continually expanding her knowledge and certifications to improve children’s health, self-esteem, fitness, and quality of life. She is also an advocate of the benefits of physical activity and fitness for people of all ages and abilities. As a once chronic back patient facing surgery after an accident, Ciara turned to fitness to restore her health, and not only lives pain-free, she enjoys some type of physical activity daily, which, she boldly claims, is how she is able to keep up with her ten children! Ciara’s approach to fitness is to do what you love and have fun doing it, so it is a source of renewal and strength.
Ciara’s favorite in-town sport is cycling, and you’ll find her packin’ 20-30 miles at a time, but she “lives” to go hiking, backpacking, and fishing with her beloved husband, Jason. She also works out 4-6 times a week to meet her cardiovascular, endurance, and resistance training goals to promote her performance as an Ironman Triathlete, which she hopes to accomplish with her husband. While fitness is an integral part of Ciara’s life, her faith, family, and friends are most sacred to her. She and her family attend Generation Church every Sunday, and actively dedicate their time and service to encourage others; faith and hope, and inspire them to live purposefully and abundantly.
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