Meet The ITS Team
History of ITS
Irvine Therapy Services was founded in 1980 by Betty Romero, MA, OTR/L, at the suggestion of Dr. A. Jean Ayres, pioneer, researcher and teacher in the field of sensory integration and occupational therapy. Dr. Ayres saw the need for a pediatric occupational therapy practice that utilized the Ayres Sensory Integration® techniques in Orange County. ITS thereby became the first pediatric occupational therapy clinic to open its doors to the children of Orange County in November 1980 .
When Betty retired from the practice in 1996, Priya Mohan, MA, OTR/L took over as Director of Irvine Therapy Services. Priya recently retired in August of 2021 and the practice is now run by Aparna Guttery, MA, OTR/L and Jennie Ni, MS, OTR/L, previous ITS employees. Aparna and Jennie have diverse, pediatric experiences and have each been working as occupational therapists for over 20 years, bringing a collective 40 years of knowledge and experience caring for children and their families.
Our Amazing Team
Our highly qualified professional staff consists of Licensed and Registered Occupational Therapists with advanced training in sensory integrative evaluation and treatment techniques. We are certified in the administration and interpretation of the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT). Our therapists have extensive background in child development, play, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, kinesiology, sensory-motor functioning, oral-motor functioning, hand function, handwriting, and psycho-social behavior. We use a holistic approach, and work with families and other professionals to enhance the quality of life and the functional abilities of the children we treat.
Owner / Occupational Therapist
Owner / Occupational therapist
Jennie Ni, MS, OTR/L received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Tufts University in Boston. She has advanced training in sensory integration through the USC Sensory Integration Certificate Program, her Handwriting Without Tears® Level 1 Certification, as well as training in the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) and Integrated Listening Systems (iLs). Jennie has worked as a pediatric occupational therapist for over 20 years in a variety of settings including the clinic, home, school, and community.
Before becoming co-owner of ITS, Jennie worked as a school-based occupational therapist for the last 16 years with Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Jennie is proud to have helped create preschool collaborative groups for the Autism Program, and to have received two Grants from The Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation: 1. To address social opportunities and physical exercise for both special education and general education students and 2. To provide general education teachers and staff access to sensory-based materials to assist students with self-regulation and optimal level of arousal for learning. Jennie is excited to continue sharing her knowledge and empowering the community with best practices for sensory health and wellness, growth mindset, and self-regulation.
Melanie Bruss, OTR/L is a registered and licensed occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience in pediatrics. After completing a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Cape Town in 1981, she furthered her education by obtaining a post-graduate Higher Diploma in Education degree from Barkley House College of Education and a post-graduate Honors degree in Psychology from the University of South Africa. Melanie’s long term commitment to working with children and their families is reflected in a range of work experiences including her role as educator and director at the preschool and kindergarten levels for for a period of 5 years. Her long term goal to assist and support families and children with special needs led her to pursue a degree in occupational therapy. Melanie completed a post graduate degree in occupational therapy from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1996. Following her graduation, she was employed at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she remained on staff for 4 years. During her time there, Melanie gained extensive experience working in acute care, rehabilitation and outpatient settings with infants, toddlers and children with a wide variety of physical and developmental challenges. Melanie joined the ITS staff in 2000 and is dedicated to facilitating the success of every child with an approach to inspiring confidence in their abilities. In addition to adopting a play-based approach to intervention, she is committed to incorporating parental involvement in the therapeutic process. Melanie is certified to administer and interpret the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) and is a trained provider of Integrated Listening Systems (iLs). During her free time, Melanie enjoys her time with her family, including her twin children, gardening and painting.
Tamara Mangum, OTR/L is a registered and licensed occupational therapist. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development from California State University, Fullerton in 1989, and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California in 1990. Tami has always focused on helping children succeed and achieve their goals at any level of ability. She has worked across all areas of intervention in pediatrics, including neonatal intensive care, pediatric rehabilitation, classroom intervention and clinical outpatient facilities. Tami is certified to administer and interpret the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) and has been with Irvine Therapy Services, Inc. since 2001. In her free time, she enjoys beach volleyball, homeschooling and travel.
Jennifer Pon, MA, OTR/L is a registered and licensed occupational therapist. She has always had an interest in working with children, and began volunteering with children’s ministries at her church from an early age. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine in 2005. While completing her degree at UCI, she became interested in working with children with special needs and loved the holistic approach and the blending of multiple disciplines within the occupational therapy profession. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California in 2008 and joined the Irvine Therapy Services, Inc. staff later that year. In clinical practice, Jennifer incorporates using sensory-motor, developmental, and sensory integration techniques to support the development of gross and fine motor skills, facilitate play skills, and promote independence with activities of daily living. She is committed to helping the children at ITS reach their full potential. Jennifer is certified to administer and interpret the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) and is a trained provider of Integrated Listening Systems (iLs). She is also familiar with the Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) curriculum. During her free time, Jennifer enjoys reading, crafting, spending time outdoors, and cheering for her favorite Los Angeles sports teams.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Stephanie first took notice of the profession of Occupational Therapy (OT) while employed at a private school for special needs children and young adults. She has worked with the special needs population in different capacities from classroom aide to behavior interventionist to (now) a Licensed and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L). She has always maintained an interest in healthcare, obtaining her Bachelor’s of Science in Health Science from California State University, Fullerton in 2011. She took the profession of OT into consideration by applying to Santa Ana College’s lottery-system Occupational
Therapy Assistant (OTA) program in 2015. She hit the lottery in 2017 and graduated 2 years later. She began her career as a COTA in the turbulent times of The Pandemic in 2020, working with children since then and briefly dipped her toes into working with adults for hand therapy. Stephanie is happily married to an educator and currently a dog momma to Merle and Benny. She and her husband have recently gotten into playing pinball, joining leagues and discovering new locations that offer pinball- play during their travels. She enjoys biking, going to Disneyland, and working with her hands in the garden, kitchen, and while crafting.
Benji joined the Irvine Therapy Services, Inc. office staff in 2001. As a member of the ITS team, she provides the essential behind-the-scenes support required to keep ITS running smoothly.
Heather Bocianski is a registered and licensed occupational therapist. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in music from Azusa Pacific University and Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Heather has worked with young adults in college settings where she solidified her passion for the well being of others and empowering them to reach their goals. When exploring careers that would allow her to pursue these passions more fully, she learned about the field of occupational therapy. This field provides her with the opportunity to care deeply for others and empower them
and their families to maximize access to their most meaningful occupations. Heather has always enjoyed working with children and has experience working in summer camps, youth groups, schools, and early intervention settings. She also has two young children of her own. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, exploring the outdoors (hiking, backpacking, scuba diving, etc.), and enjoying a new restaurant or cup of coffee with friends.
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