Who Lives Like This?!
Summary: Join us on our podcast journey to learn from conversations with OUR kinds of celebrities - caregivers living this life honestly and making an impact for our children and others. We’ll also be talking to the other experts, those who help us and fight for us in education and the medical field, for disability rights and so on.
Strap on your seatbelts! You're in for a real ride with today's guest, Erin Starks. Her bio alone will leave you shaking your head in wonder, so wait until you hear all that she shares with us! As an educator, health advocate and mother of six children, Erin has spent more than a decade advocating for the rights of children and young adults with disabilities and their families. She has worked with fellow educators, families and students in underserved communities throughout Atlanta and South Los Angeles. Her work is anchored in the belief that all children deserve the right to access valuable resources that enhance their learning in inclusive, diverse learning communities. She's leveraged her experience as the mother of a sixteen year old daughter, Kamiyah, who was born with a rare form of dwarfism, to continue her advocacy work for special education students through elementary school and beyond. In addition to her work in the classroom, Erin is the Founder and Director of OHMGirls Yoga, an inclusive yoga community devoted to helping teens cultivate resilience, through mindfulness, movement, and meaningful community. She’s also the Founder and Co-Owner of Miya Organics, a wellness company with a mission to develop products that have a positive environmental impact. In January 2020, Miya Organics will be launching a pilot program that provides work-based training to young adults with special needs who have a desire to learn the art of candle making and enhance their independent living skills, while creating products that add value to the lives of others.
Jason and I have had a brief hiatus and are back this week with Christy Shake, a writer, blogger, epilepsy advocate and champion of medical marijuana. Originally from the Seattle area, Christy came to Maine with her partner, professor and photographer Michael Kolster, by way of San Francisco where she had begun a successful career as an apparel designer. The birth of their son Calvin, now fifteen, required Christy to surrender her profession in order to care for him. Within weeks of Calvin’s complicated and fraught birth, she began writing about the experience. In 2010 she launched her blog, Calvin’s Story, in which she explores, among other things, motherhood, disability, epilepsy, medical cannabis, loss, grief, bigotry and injustice. She, Michael and Calvin live in Brunswick, Maine with their wackadoodle, Smellie. In today's podcast Christy speaks as honestly about the grit of parenting a child with significant disabilities as she sheds light on the grace of it all.
It's been a few weeks since we recorded a conversation with seventeen-year-old Clio Chazan-Gabbard, the daughter of our recent guest Chris Gabbard. During those weeks, we have touched on just how moved and almost overwhelmed we were by this beautiful human being. We are so honored as parents of children with disabilities that Clio shared her life and experience with us. We know that you will feel the same and hope that you will share the conversation with your own children.
Regular listeners know that we usually talk with caregivers and siblings of children and young adults with disabilities, but every now and then we also like to pick the brains of or highlight those people who support us in the care of our children. Dr. Audrey Griesbach is a developmental pediatrician in the Los Angeles area whose practice is devoted entirely to the comprehensive evaluation and treatment of children with a wide variety of neuro-developmental disorders, including autism, cerebral palsy, genetic disorders, developmental and cognitive delays, learning disabilities, and ADHD and other behavioral disorders.
This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with guest Chris Gabbard, author of “A Life Beyond Reason: A Father’s Memoir.” Chris is an associate professor at the University of Northern Florida. He published “A Life Beyond Reason” after his son August, who was born with significant disabilities, passed away in 2013. This week’s podcast delves into the beautiful life story of August and the real world consequences of a broken safety net.
A writer and artist, Amy Webb (aka Miggy) is a passionate advocate for disability rights and writes about the issues her family frequently faces. She interviews other special needs' families and individuals with the hope of changing the perception of disability one story at a time. In today's podcast, we delved into Amy's journey and learned that Amy's life as an artist is what sustains her, what gets her out of bed in the morning and persists despite the challenges and joys of parenting in general. Amy shared the genesis of her children's book When Charley Met Emma, a creation that grew out of a blog post that she's written for years called Miggy's Guide to Navigating a Special Needs Encounter. When Charley Met Emma, illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard, is a children's book about a boy named Charlie who goes to a playground with his mother and has an encounter with a girl in a wheelchair -- a girl named Emma with limb differences. We hope you enjoy the show and we highly recommend you check out the book. Please subscribe to the show and give us a review on your favorite podcast provider: Apple Podcasts: bit.ly/ApplePodcastReview Google Play: bit.ly/GooglePodcastReview Spotify: bit.ly/SpotifyPodcastReview
We have been on a brief hiatus due to a couple of chaotic weeks for your favorite podcast hosts. In this episode Elizabeth and Jason check-in on each other, talk about an Alaskan adventure, children leaving the nest and much more. We also highlight our favorite episodes and insights from the last few months of shows. We hope you enjoy it! If you have a minute, please subscribe to the show and give us a review on your favorite podcast provider: Apple Podcasts: http://bit.ly/ApplePodcastReview Google Play: http://bit.ly/GooglePodcastReview Spotify: http://bit.ly/SpotifyPodcastReview
Elizabeth met Amy Silverman in real life when she was asked to "engage in conversation" with her at my local independent bookstore. She knew of Amy at the time as a journalist who had recently published a memoir called My Heart Can't Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome. We parents of children with disabilities and special needs know one another because of the communities we have created, and Elizabeth had seen Amy's work online, had friends who knew her and was otherwise familiar with her, but it was such a joy and honor to finally meet and then talk writing, books and -- well -- parenting a kid with special needs. In today's podcast, we got to pick Amy's brain on her new projects and what's been happening with her and her family since the book was published. Amy is funny -- so funny, in fact, that we laughed throughout the whole episode, and I think you'll very much enjoy joining us! Amy is a freelance writer/editor/teacher in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, a place she's still learning to love. She's married to Ray Stern, an editor at Phoenix New Times, the alternative newsweekly. They have two children, Annabelle and Sophie. When Sophie was born, the couple were surprised to learn that she had Down Syndrome. As Amy said, "Wait a second, I have never written about Down syndrome. I have never met a person with Down syndrome. I don't know anything about people with intellectual disabilities. [I] had to have a real come-to-Jesus with myself, which is not easy for a Jewish girl, and realize that I was the one who avoided people with Down syndrome in the checkout line at Safeway." In today's conversation, we spoke about the transitions our children face when their older siblings leave home for college, and that led to Amy telling us about her daughter Sophie's persistent questioning of her own place in the world.
In today's podcast, we had the great pleasure of talking with Heather Barnes Jackson, the co-founder and CEO of the Realm of Caring Foundation (RoC), an internationally acclaimed non-profit primarily serving families who are dealing with life-limiting and chronic health conditions and are using cannabinoid therapy. The foundation serves over 55,000 families and 1500 Health Care Professionals from all over the world through their care center that speaks 5 languages and fields over 7000 inquiries monthly. They reach over 1 million people a month through their efforts and awareness. RoC is doing innovative and first of its kind research with Johns Hopkins University, collaborating on the largest registry in the US. They use this research to deliver revolutionary education to the community. RoC has distributed over $350,000 in grants to families in need. They also have aided in over twenty states adding cannabis legislation since 2014. Heather talked a bit about how she started Realm of Caring and how it grew over 10,000% since 2013. She's also a published researcher, an author and a speaker who has presented in 7 countries. Today she shared with us her passion for community, social entrepreneurship and "disrupting the status quo." We got tips on how to turn off social media and take care of yourself, and she wowed us with an intense discussion of her most recent obsession -- suffering and grief and praise.
Jason and I were particularly excited to invite Dr. Rita Eichenstein on the podcast because her book has been cited many times by our guests -- including Jason! -- as one of the most meaningful ones they'd read as a caregiver and one that they regularly recommended to other caregivers. She wrote Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children to help parents learn to cope with "the roller coaster of feelings parents encounter parenting a child who is different from what 'they expected.'" Rita is a noted psychologist, pediatric neuropsychologist and author, renowned in the field of child development. She also has a private practice in Los Angeles and has served both atypical children of all ages and their parents for over 25 years.
In today's podcast we spoke with Jessica Patay a mother, wife, and advocate for mothers of special needs children. She is also a coffee and book addict, who has no business buying any more books this century. Or shoes. Married to her husband Chris for 22 years, she uses her psychology degree to artfully and carefully lead her lovely brood of 3 teenagers, Luke (18), Ryan (15), and Kate (13). Ryan was diagnosed at birth with Prader Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder marked by hyperphagia, low muscle tone, obsessiveness and anxiety. Ryan is her "most grateful child," Jessica says, a sensitive boy who suffers from extreme anxiety but whose heart is huge. In today's podcast, Jason, Jessica and I spoke about the intuitive powers of our children, their empathy for others and sensitivities that belie their diagnoses of cognitive impairment. We also spoke about sibling issues, and Jessica shared some tips and great ideas on how their family has managed to juggle alone time with each of their typical children. Our discussion includes Jessica's current passion, the organization she has created called We Are Brave Together. Jessica describes the group as "a beautiful collision" of her life as a special needs mother and a passionate lover of female friendships and closeness.
In today’s episode, we covered a broad range of topics with Hillary Smiley including practicing gratitude and finding the gifts in the everyday moments of this life. "Anything, if offered to God, can and will become your gateway to joy." -Elisabeth Elliot That's a quote that Hillary Smiley uses as a touchstone. She is a photographer based in Los Angeles and has been married for 15 years. They have four children, the oldest is thirteen and the youngest, aged four. Their third child, ten-year old Luke, was born with chromosomal and brain abnormalities and the rarest form of a rare syndrome. Despite the challenges that come with being a special needs parent, Hillary regularly looks for and counts the gifts that God has given her, especially in the often missed, everyday moments of life.
In today’s episode, we had the pleasure of speaking with Amialya (Mia) Durairaj a writer, communications consultant, advocate and caregiver of two children with special needs. We covered a broad range of topics about work life balance as a special needs parent and the special skills we develop along the caregiver journey. Mia is a mom of identical twin toddlers, both of whom have special needs. The girls, now aged two, were born three months early and had respiratory and cardiac issues related to prematurity. Both girls have had numerous surgeries and spent many months in and out of the hospital, but Mia reports that "things continue to look up, and they're both doing great now." Mia, her husband and the girls live in San Diego, California. When she isn't wrangling her kids, Mia is a health writer and communications consultant at Little Octopus, LLC, and her work has been published in The Washington Post, a recent World Health Organization report, Hand to Hold, The Mighty and more. She's also the co-creator of Mindful Return's Balancing Career with a Special Needs Baby program which has been featured in numerous parenting and family magazines and periodicals. As if that isn't enough to keep her busy, she's the founder and co-chair of the Cardiac Family Advisory Council at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California.
Finally a podcast with siblings! Given the repeated request for a podcast with siblings, we've finally come through and are thrilled to introduce you to two stellar young men: Henry and Toby. Henry Beglinger is a native Angeleno, the middle child and younger brother to Sophie, Elizabeth's daughter who has a refractory seizure disorder and severe developmental disabilities. Toby Okoye also attends Gonzaga where fate threw Henry and him together as friends and now roommates. Toby lives with his parents and siblings in Puyallup, a small city outside of Seattle. He is the oldest of four children by six years; his younger sister and two brothers are triplets who were born prematurely and who each have autism. As our discussion with Henry and Toby progressed, we hung back with our mouths open, stunned at the beauty and wisdom that came out of these young men. We talked about the guys' early experiences with their siblings, when they figured out that something was "different" about their siblings, and how they coped with stressful situations over the years.
Jason and I were so excited to talk this week with A. Laura Brody, an artist here in Los Angeles with an exquisite sensibility. She describes herself as "a sculptor of the human body and its vehicles." Her sculptures are conceived with "a commitment to social justice and are inspired by art history and the spirit of scientific discovery." Her career as a professional costumer coupled with a passion for reuse gave her the skills needed to turn wheelchairs, walkers and mobility scooters into sculptural works of art. Laura believes that disability is a natural human condition and that instead of "fixing," hiding or denying it, we should make it "thrive."