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The Coffee Klatch: A Voice for Parents of Special Needs Children

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By Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW
Director of Community Development

On June 24th Marianne Russo, President at The Coffee Klatch Special Needs Radio, will be our guest for Social Work Chats by Social Work Helper. The Coffee Klatch is an excellent resource for parents and families of children with special needs.  Marianne generously took some time  out of her busy schedule to answer a few of our questions. 

SWH: How did The Coffee Klatch come about and what is the mission?

Marianne Russo: The Coffee Klatch started on a whim. I often speak and write about the isolation, stigma and confusion of

Marianne Russo

Marianne Russo

parents raising a special needs child. Many of those 
parents are on twitter to share information, seek support or find a friendly ear. Twitter is where it all began. It is where I met my incredible team of hosts and hundreds of thousands of special needs parents. It is where I first created a morning chat for parents both newly diagnosed and those who have navigated the muddy waters to meet and share. It became very apparent to me, very quickly, that many of these parents were getting misinformation about their child’s diagnosis or were not aware of accommodations and the importance of early interventions.  For many, comorbidity of related disorders and the presentations in the vast difference in these disorders was impeding progress. They were struggling, overwhelmed, isolated and feeling defeated. What these parents needed was evidence based, comprehensive, cutting edge information, they needed the best of the best, the needed The Coffee Klatch Talk Radio.

Our guests are the most respected and renowned experts in the world. Together with my incredible team of hosts, I work to bring parents what they need to find accurate diagnosis and effective treatements.

We take pride in providing interviews with the most respected and renowned experts on all aspects and types of neurobiological disorders, autism and child adolescent mental illnesses.  We feature experts and celebrity advocates on all children’s disabilities both physical and emotional and spotlight International children’s foundations to share their incredible dedication and bring parents support.   Our goal is to provide you, the parent, the educator, with crucial information to allow you to make the most informed educated decisions for a child.

My goal on The Coffee Klatch is not only to guide those dealing with children with mental illness, disabilities or autism, but to share an important message of fostering and embracing differences. Put aside labels and see the incredible kid behind the diagnosis. Find and marvel the wonder of “different” and always remember that these kids are not just special in their needs but in their brilliance as well.

I want to give parents what I so dearly needed and did not have when I started on my journey, the empowerment of confidence and hope.  It is my intent to bring my listeners the tools and information to not only accept and understand your child’s diagnosis, but to educate parents on special education law, digging out of the trenches and the true meaning of advocacy.

SWH: How many people are involved in running the Coffee Klatch and who are they (parents, specialist, volunteers, etc)?

MR: I personally do all the management, marketing and production of the network on a full time basis.  I also host two shows on the network, our main show The Coffee Klatch and my new show Inspire.  Mae Wilkinson is our treasurer and my trusted advisor on autism related interviews and corporate strategies.

The Coffee Klatch is where I seek to give parents what they so desperately need, empowerment. Through my interviews I brings parents cutting edge researchers, world renowned psychiatrists, specialized psychologists, internationally respected children’s foundations, special education law experts, celebrity advocates and the creative thinkers of our time. In addition to the cutting edge scientific and clinical information, what I truly aspires to give parents is hope. My guests run the gamut with interviews with the man called by the New York Times “The most powerful psychiatrist in the world” Dr Allen Frances, six interviews by Times Magazines Most Influential Person of the Year, Dr Temple Grandin and everything in between including Twilight actor Jackson Rathbone discussing his film Girlfriend featuring a lead actor with Down Syndrome.

On Inspire I feel the Chinese proverb explains it best – To Know The Road Ahead Ask Those Coming Back.  This statement has never been more true then when raising a special needs child or teen. To a special needs parent there is no better resource than one who has been there and can truly understand the emotions and experiences through living them. On Inspire I bring on those who have walked in your shoes with incredible stories of triumph and inspiration.  I aim to give parents the courage to stand up to conformity to get their child the education and the life they deserve.

I have amazing hosts who feature outstanding focused programming on The Special Needs Talk Radio Network:

SWH: Diane Kennedy and Rebecca Bank hosts of “Bright Not Broken 

MR: Diane and Rebecca are the authors of Bright Not Broken GIFTED KIDS, ADHD, AND AUTISM and The ADHD-Autism Connection with Dr Temple Grandin. Diane is the mother of three twice-exceptional sons who has spent over 18 years advocating for special needs children. Rebecca, a veteran educator who has spent nearly a decade teaching in inclusive classrooms, is the mother of two twice-exceptional children. Together, Diane and Rebecca will examine the issues around twice-exceptional children—that is, gifted kids with hidden disabilities such as ADHD, Asperger’s/autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, and related conditions. Their unique perspective and fresh approach will help parents, educators, and healthcare professionals understand who these kids are, why they’re stuck, and how to help them. In a time when the diagnostic system is in flux and education is under fire, this program will look unflinching at how proposed changes in these systems will affect twice-exceptional kids. The Bright Not Broken Radio Show will help listeners identify and maximize the talents of gifted kids with hidden disabilities.

SWH: Dr Richard Selznick hosts “School Struggles”

MR: Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, adjunct graduate school professor, assistant professor of pediatrics and school consultant. The author of two books, The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child and the recently published School Struggles: A Guide To Your Shut-Down Learner’s Success, he has presented to parents and educators internationally, as far as Dubai and Abu Dhabi and throughout the United States . A down-to-earth presenter who looks to discuss difficult topics in non-jargon terms, Dr. Selznick tries to present complex issues in down-to earth terms.

  • Stefanie Weis hosts “Ask Stefanie”

Stefanie is a Mental Health Consultant specializing in OCD, Anxiety, ADHD, PANDAS, and other related mental health disorders. She meets with the parents of children who have these disorders so that they can speak openly and honestly about their child. Based on an in- depth consultation and intake process, they collaborate on selecting a team of doctors that will be most appropriate for the child.  Stefanie brings us interviews with mental health experts on everyday issues parents with challenging kids encounter. 

  • Dr Russell Hyken hosts The Dr Hyken Show

Discussions about teens, young adults and the challenges they encounter.

Pre-adolescents, teenagers and college-age students all find Dr. Russell Hyken very approachable and so do parents and educators. Parenting an older teen or young adult has many challenges and transitioning into adulthood can be difficult especially for those with mental illness or challenging behaviors.

Russell Hyken specializes in education and psychotherapy for students ages 10 to 17 as well as young adults from 18 to 24. Essentially, he acts as a case manager for finding answers and developing a plan. Proper diagnosis of any issue – no matter what the stage of development – is the first step toward your son or daughter’s path to success. Dr. Hyken has invaluable information regarding the testing and evaluation expertise to find the correct diagnosis and it is that expertise he will be sharing with you.

  • Areva Martin is a guest host of The Areva Martin Show

Known to audiences across the country from her regular appearances on The Dr. Phil Show, as well as national stints on Fox News, CNN, NPR, and Court TV Radio Television, Areva Martin is one of television’s most in-demand legal experts/analysts. She is the founder of Special Needs Network and is the mother of a son with autism.

Areva is a quotable authority on workplace, disability rights, education, custody and women’s issues, this accomplished and multi-award winning lawyer, syndicated columnist, author and public speaker.

  • Respecting Autism w host Dr Gil Tippy – Premieres Summer 2013

Dr. Gil Tippy is the co-author of the book Respecting Autism with the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan.  Gil is considered one of the most respected in his field of Autism and related disorders. In the introduction to the book, Dr. Gill Tippy writes about his methodology in this way:

I want to be on the side of this debate that respects children. That treats children in the way that loving parents have treated children since man first walked upright. I want to be on the side of this debate that believes that children have feelings and thoughts, and that those feelings and thoughts are at least as valid as the feelings and thoughts of any adult. I want to be on the side of the debate that asks children what they want, that asks permission before we wipe a child’s nose, that does not rush.

We also have three outstanding special series: 

  •  The Child Mind Institute Series featuring their incredible team of psychiatrists join me for comprehensive interviews on all child and adolescent mental illnesses
  •  Columbia Psychiatry Child and Adolescent Series bring us mental illness interviews with cutting edge research and parenting guidance for teens with differences such as gay or lesbian or those at high risk for dangerous behaviors.
  •  The Maverick Mind Series with the woman who coined the phrase and wrote the book – literally – Dr Cheri Florance gives a five part series on understanding the highly visual thinker … the children with the maverick mind hosted by Ange Eaton an advocate for children with synesthesia and unique thinking styles.

 My sister network – Talking Special Needs offers five incredible highly focused programs

  • The Inclusive Class – Terri Mauro and Nicole Eredics – Inclusion in the classroom
  • Autism as they grow – Amalia Starr and Bobbi Sheahan – Autism from toddler to adulthood
  • Special Education Law and Rights with Jenn and Julie – Jenn Laviano and Julie Swanson 
  • Maximizing Your Childs Potential – Dr Gary Brannigan and Dr Howard Margolis – Dyslexia and Reading disabilities
  • Our Kids Can Thrive – Aviva Weiss and Ilana Danneman – Sensory solutions, Occupational Therapy, Gizmos and Gadgets.  From homework help to understanding sensory under responders and over responders.

SWH: What type of information do you provide?

MR: We provide information and empowerment to parents and educators in the special needs and mental health communities with interviews on all disabilities both physical and emotional with a strong focus on autism, neurobiological disorders and mental illness.  We cover topics from cutting edge research to practical parenting tips.  Our guests are literally the most influential and revered doctors in the world.  We also bring on internationally respected children’s foundations to offer support and direction.

Our website provides resources, support programs, special education and disability law pages and our social media network includes Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Itunes. All our shows are available to listen to any time in archive on Blog Talk Radio and are offered free to download on Itunes.

SWH: How do you find guest for the shows? Are they by invitation only?

MR: Yes, all our guests are hand picked by the hosts and are considered the most renowned in the world. We do invite parents, educators and professionals to submit their blog writings to be chosen bloggers on our website blog to share their information as well.  We must be doing something right as we have over a quarter of a million listeners!

SWH: What has been the most challenging aspect of starting and running this sort of project?

MR: Managing and producing ten or twelve radio shows is a full time job which was not something I had expected to take on when I started this as a simple Twitter tweetchat.   Ensuring that the information I provide is evidence based and accurate is a big responsibility which I take very seriously.  Funding the network is also an important part of my work because just as our guests are hand picked, so are our sponsors.  I truly feel that everyone involved in this venture need be as dedicated to these special children and the quality of the network.

SWH: What has been the most rewarding part of your work?

MR: There is no better feeling then when a parent writes or call and says ….. Thank you, your show changed my child’s life and gave me courage and hope ….. Who can ask for more than that?

 I would like to thank Marianne for taking the time to talk with us.  You can also find Marianne at her personal website www.thelifeunexpected.com.  You can also find on Twitter @Marianne_Russo and The Coffee Klatch at @TheCoffeeKlatch. 

Our live Twitter chat, Giving Special Needs Children a Voice, with Marianne will start at 8PM EST on June 24th.  To participate use hashtag #SWUnited.   @poliSW will be moderating this discussion. 

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Rachel L. West is the Founder of the Political Social Worker, a blog dedicated to macro social work and politics. She holds a BA in History from SUNY Stony Brook and an MSW from Adelphi University. She is a community outreach and engagement specialist. Rachel resides in New York State, and she is available as a consultant and coach. You can find out more about Rachel at The Political Social Worker at (politicalsocialworker.org).

          
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