Tandis Taj is a speech language pathologist who has worked in both the Massachusetts and Colorado public schools for the past 11 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in hearing and speech sciences from Saint Louis University and a Master’s degree in communication disorders from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Tandis developed a passion for working with children on the autism spectrum early on in her career. She enjoyed creating social skills groups that helped develop students’ social awareness skills. As her career progressed she noticed that many of her students that struggled with social skills also experienced increased levels of anxiety.
While in Colorado, Tandis partnered with a school psychologist at her elementary school to research methods that would improve social skill goals while also addressing anxiety. Over time and with encouragement from her administration, the two of them developed a program they called “Schmoga”. This unique approach combined social thinking strategies, sensory stations, yoga poses, mindfulness and deep breathing strategies. The social thinking component of Shmoga was originally created and trademarked by Michelle Garcia Winner. The yoga portion of the program was developed in consultation with Julie Campilio, founder of Radiant Beginnings Yoga. The incorporation of sensory stations, social thinking strategies, and social stories were implemented by Tandis and her school psychologist partner.
Over time, the Schmoga program developed into a successful component of the curriculum for her students on the Autism Spectrum. Other local schools and districts observed the Schmoga program as part of an observation for special education. Eventually, Tandis was contacted by an occupational therapy doctoral candidate who was interested in researching the effects of Schmoga on students’ learning. Helping to mentor the study, aptly named “Schmoga”, Tandis consulted with the doctoral student and her administration to collect data over a 12-week span. Data collection included pre and post teacher rated assessments of students’ targeted behaviors. Results at the end of the study indicated improvement across the areas of sensory issues, self-regulation, and social interactions, with the most significant area of improvement being self regulation.
Following the birth of her Daughter in late 2015, Tandis made the decision to transition into private practice. Tandis and her family relocated back to Massachusetts from Colorado during the summer of 2016. Tandis along with her husband, baby daughter, and two English bulldogs reside in the community of Winchester, MA.