In our continued commitment to spotlighting the best resources for families raising kids with special needs, we honor The Coffee Klatch all this week! Up first is an interview with one of The Coffee Klatch’s founders, Marianne Russo. We encourage you to see what Marianne has to say here and then check out their web site and see all they have to offer the special needs community!
The Coffee Klatch has several resources available for families of kids with special needs. Can you give a quick rundown of all you have to offer?
The Coffee Klatch spotlights all disabilities both physical and emotional with expert guests and internationally renowned children’s foundations. Our guests consist of physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, advocates and special needs authors. It is our goal to provide the most accurate and cutting edge information available for any particular disorder. We try to offer a comprehensive approach to raising a special needs child bringing on specialists for co-existing issues such as vision, dental and auditory problems as well. The Coffee Klatch offers morning chat sessions Monday. Tuesday and Thursday at 9am est, Wednesday evenings on Blog Talk Radio at 9pm est as well as Special Sunday Editions twice a month. (Click here to see their event calendar.)
Can you tell us how and why you founded The Coffee Klatch?
My goal has been to encourage parents to never give up – leave no stone unturned and keep digging for answers. I often speak and write about the isolation of parents raising a special needs child. Many of these parents are on twitter to share information, seek support or find a friendly ear. Twitter is where I first met Elise and although we initially started tweeting about non special needs issues, we soon found our commonality. We spoke of all the parents that are struggling and the newly diagnosed families looking for direction. I had suggested we start a morning chat to help our fellow special needs parents and give them a place to go each morning to find others and get support. We decided to find two other moderators to help us offer a daily chat who we respected and felt could offer a broader range experience on all disabilities. We launched our chat on January 18, 2010. It became very apparent to me very quickly that many parents were getting misinformation or were not aware of therapies, medication interactions and accommodations for their children. Although we have all been at this for quite a while and are fairly knowledgeable in many areas, we are parents and not medical professionals so I felt it was not our place to give expert advice. I decided to seek out the most respected and renowned experts in the world and invite them to join us – the rest is history.
You’ve put together an amazing group of people to help you. Can you tell me how you found the people who make up The Coffee Klatch team?
The Coffee Klatch team is second to none – really! Elise is synonymous with advocacy, her background and her personal experiences in raising and educating two aspergers sons is invaluable to any parent with a child on the spectrum. Elise has advocated, accommodated and parented her sons to College and brings light to the social issues facing our kids. Jane Hotvedt is the mother of seven children with disabilities and is our go to person for assistive technology. Having one son with cerebral palsy and six others with various other disabilities, her knowledge of therapies is comprehensive. Pierrette d’Entrmont is our “know it because I have lived it” moderator. She herself has Tourette Syndrome and bipolar disorder and now has one child with the same. Her insight and knowledge brings us to a whole different level of understanding on many issues. Pierrette also has developed and manufactures “Kids Companions” a sensory solution chewable jewelry for our sensory kids. Chuck Walley is an incredible father, I first met Chuck as he joined us on our evening sessions to get support in single parenting an aspie teen, I soon knew he was the missing piece to our team He has brought about some of the most emotional discussions we have ever had on the show and shines the light on special needs fathers. The Coffee Klatch is a collaboration – we are a team. It is our differences in opinions and experiences that gives The Coffee Klatch its unique and comprehensive quality. (Note: We will be featuring the rest of The Coffee Klatch team later in the week!)
What are your future goals for The Coffee Klatch?
What are my future goals for The Coffee Klatch? I can’t imagine how we could improve on the format that we already have in place but we are always working together to bring out the best in ourselves and in others knowing that we are each others best resources. I am very proud of what we have done and feel that we are providing a wonderful resource for so many parents. We take great care to ensure that the information we put out is correct and safe. We do our homework and will continue to advocate for integrity and respect for special needs families.
For you personally, what has The Coffee Klatch given you? How has it made your life better?
Personally, I have felt for a long time that I have a message to share, I have found my purpose. The journey with its twists and turns has been difficult and challenging. Getting to the point of true acceptance, understanding that this is a life long journey, that we are our childs best advocates and that with the negatives come the positives is key to surviving and thriving raising a special needs child. It is truly an honor to be able to bring the amazing experts and foundations to struggling families and contribute even in a small way to the special needs community. I am in the process of writing a book, a survival guide for the special needs parent – “The Life Unexpected – The one you were meant to have”. I truly believe that with education will come compassion and hope that we as parents share this education with our children to stomp the stigma for the next generation of special needs children.
The Coffee Klatch has given me more than I could ever give in return. Getting to know and collaborate with this amazing team of moderators has made my life richer in every way. Meeting and interviewing the most renowned experts in the world is an incredible experience and I learn something new every day. I think the most profound impact creating The Coffee Klatch has had on my life is that it really made me recognize the gift. With each child there is a gift which needs to be fostered and cherished. Learning to focus on my child’s gift has been the greatest gift I have ever received.
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