Danielle Francingues Knows Students with Autism Have a Long Road Ahead of Them – Fortunately, She’s a Long-distance Runner
Business Owner, teacher, tutor, consultant, and advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves, Danielle Francingues feels that sometimes getting through the toughest time of your life requires extraordinary resilience - and may produce amazing results.
Danielle knows what that’s like. “The toughest time of my life was my senior year in high school. We moved from Dallas to New Orleans, my parents got divorced, both grandparents on my dad's side passed, then I had to leave home and go to college.” She had no say in all that occurred, so she had to focus her energy elsewhere.
While some people run away from their troubles, Danielle ran through them. She joined her new school’s cross-country team her senior year and competed in the state competition. And she ran fast: “My mile run was under 6 minutes.”
Running helped her clear her head of all that was happening in her personal life and prepared her for her future working with students who are often frustrating to teach because they can’t talk about their emotions or problems – or at all.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Danielle lived in NOLA until the 3rd grade when her family moved to Dallas. She lived happily in Dallas for 10 years and attended Bishop Lynch High School where she played volleyball, ran track, and was the boys’ baseball team manager.
But her move back to New Orleans her senior year was a tough surprise, leaving her friends and teammates in east Dallas behind. She finished her high school career at Archbishop Hannan, where she played volleyball and ran cross country. She acknowledges it’s fortunate she has a particularly good sense of direction, because sometimes the high school cross country courses are not well marked. Getting off track or lost can happen.
But Danielle kept her head down during her senior year and graduated with a vision to help others going through tough times. She admits she is also very attuned to the people around her, which makes her an excellent teacher and tutor for those who can’t say what they’re thinking.
She attended the University of New Orleans for a year and then completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in general studies and a minor is Psychology. She went on to obtain a Master's in Teaching with a Special Education focus at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
She landed a teaching job right out of college in the Calcasieu Parish School District in Lake Charles, LA, teaching in a Special Education self-contained classroom.
Teaching Through Tough Times
But after teaching for 11 years in most Special Education class types, “I found there was too much red tape and the curriculum for Special Education was not sufficient.”
Frustrated, Danielle looked for a better way to connect with her students. She was introduced to a method of communication and teaching called RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) that presumes competence for non-verbal learners. Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), was developed by a parent of a child with autism to teach communication through a system of quickly delivered prompts, meant to match the rate at which a student might engage in stereotypic behaviors.
“I knew that this was the future for special education,” Danielle says. She began tutoring using this method and loved the results. “So, when the opportunity presented itself in 2019, I took my tutoring side job full time.”
She met her business partner, Adriana Barriga, soon after Danielle was introduced to RPM. “I found out that we had a mutual client and I asked to observe her work with him and would ask her questions about the program when I saw her.”
The two work together because, Danielle says, “We are the only two people in DFW who provide the official RPM technique and we share an office space for the ease of the clients.” They have a combined 20 years of experience teaching Special Education in both the public and private sectors. They noticed a need for more individualized instruction after the school day ends and launched their business at 135 E Harwood Road in Hurst, Texas in September 2019. They plan to move to Lewisville/Carrollton area by November, but their students come from all over the metroplex.
Helping the Non-verbal Student
Danielle loves being able to help families see the potential in their students.
She also advises parents about their children’s rights in their school system and the correct procedures for each individual student at his or her school. “At Open Pathways, we usually provide tutoring and classes, using the Rapid Prompting Method in academics, hobbies, and life skills to help people with Autism and other communication related disorders.”
Recognizing that Covid set many students back, Open Pathways is ready to help by offering tutoring services to anyone who may need them.
When she’s not tutoring or advocating for her students, Danielle enjoys her pets: a cat named Dallas and a dog named Cheyenne. She’s an avid cross-stitcher at home. But when she goes out, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, working out, reading, meeting up with friends, live comedy, and music. While working at Deanie’s Seafood in Bucktown, LA, she met a few celebrities including comedian Bernie Mack.
She admits a sense of humor helps in her current job as a private tutor and special education advocate. “It’s good to be positive when working with students of all abilities. We presume competence in them, especially with non-verbal clients. We start by giving them choices and then work up to them using a stencil for them to spell and communicate. It is a parent-lead program, so it does need to be worked on at home with parents.”
Her current success with her students gives her hope for their future – and her own. “In five to 10 years, I hope that we have expanded the individual tutoring to small group sessions or even a homeschool cohort or co-op. Eventually, I hope to make presuming competence a nationwide initiative.”
As the saying goes, Danielle is in it for the long haul, running this race to help her students win – at school, and in life.
For more information on Open Pathways LLC, see the website: pathwaysteaching.com
Or contact Danielle Francingues, MA Ed at pathwaysteaching.com or call 682-503-9967.
Judy Porter, MBA. writes about local non-profits, small businesses and heroes in the Dallas Metroplex. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org