The US Department of Health estimated that more than one-fifth of American homes are raising at least one child with special needs. With that statistic, consider the number of overwhelmed and frazzled parents.
Numerous challenges accompany the joy of loving a special child and for a new parent, it can be overwhelming. Anxiety, sadness, anger, disappointment, confusion, and fear are among the myriad of emotions one might experience and many new parents feel isolated and all alone.
That is why Coffee Klatch was formed. Marianne Russo, a parent of a special needs teen, founded Coffee Klatch to empower, inform, and support parents raising kids with disabilities. She saw the need for parents to come together and uplift, support, educate, inspire, and encourage one another.
It’s an interactive forum on blog talk radio and twitter (Tweet Chat). Expert guests include award-winning authors, doctors, psychologists, and representatives from national childrens’ organizations. They appear on Coffe Klatch and share information, news, and opinions on a wide range of topics that cover physical and emotional disorders. Parents tune in and learn from the experts and one another. It’s a way to connect with families facing similar issues. Even if their children’s diagnoses differ, they are traveling the same path and understand one another.
I met Marianne a month ago to discuss Coffee Klatch, once a tiny embryo born out of this mother’s desire to make a difference in the lives of families raising children with mental illness or physical disability. In one fast-paced year, her baby, Coffee Klatch, has exploded into an internet Goliath. It has widespread appeal for a parent population that is multicultural and economically diverse. The visitors to Coffee Klatch are as unique as the children they raise but they all share a common goal: to be the best parent they can be. Coffee Klatch is a community, a gathering of hearts and minds.
Marianne discussed living the “life unexpected.” That’s a phrase Marianne uses a lot to describe the transition one makes from parent to special needs parent. A parent learns quickly that the life they had planned will have to be altered, adapted, and reinvented after their child has been diagnosed. It’s a process that takes time and requires flexibility, thinking outside the box, learning not to sweat the small stuff, patience, and a whole lot of love.
Marianne is simply awestruck at the volume of followers Coffee Klatch has attracted this year. It’s been a steam engine on the internet highway.
Marianne stated: “Who knew that four women and one man from different parts of the continent would come together and create a forum that has become a staple in the special needs community?”
She also discussed with me how the illness affects the whole family, and the first hurdle is coming to terms with the diagnosis. Acceptance is key. “Learn to dance in the rain.” Marianne says. She explains, “If you can’t accept what is, you’ll get stuck in an unhappy place. Learning to accept a new life and learning to parent a child with special needs is necessary but you don’t have to do it alone. That’s where Coffee Klatch can help.”
If you are a parent of a special needs child, be sure to tune into Blog Talk Radio on Monday or Wednesday, 9 pm Eastern. You can also find them on Tweet Chat (Twitter) on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 9-10:30 am Eastern. There you can connect with other parents who know what it is like living the life unexpected.
You are your child’s biggest advocate. Be informed and educate yourself on topics related to your child’s disorder. Learn from other parents and remember: you are not alone!