Interview with Carrie Fannin, SPD Advocate/Mom

Hello Everyone!

I am kicking off my interview series today, with the hope of having an interview each Monday for all of you to enjoy. The goal would be to increase awareness and even more importantly, let you readers know just how many families just like YOURS are out there!

Please feel free to leave comments below! Oh, and the picture is Hayley *before* she was a teenager. LOL

Here is the interview with Carrie Fannin, Mom, SPD Support Group Host, and all around Rock Star SPD Advocate!

Hartley: Hi Carrie! Thank you so much for agreeing to this blog interview. I know you are busy out there saving our SPD kiddos one by one, so it means a great deal to me, and my readers, that you have taken the time to talk with us. Welcome!

Carrie: Thanks Hartley. Glad to be here. Rock Star Advocate? I forgot my Leather Pants ;-)

Hartley: I just can't believe you own leather pants. LOL Many of us here in WA (and now nationally) have heard your name, as soon as we started our quest for support. Can you tell us about how your journey began? Who were you before the WA SPD Support Group was formed?

Carrie: A working Mom. I worked for a community bank in Bellevue, WA as a Sales Support Manager for an Income Property Department.

Hartley: You talk to moms with newly diagnosed kids all the time, what do you remember from your first *days* realizing you were officially the mom to a “special needs” child?

Carrie: Oh, a jumble of emotions. I remember that I felt very alone. Scared. I couldn’t pronounce the disorder my child had been diagnosed with, let alone explain it to anyone who asked about it. Worried about my daughter’s future. A lot of things. There were a whole lot of tears and a lot of sleepless nights in those early days.

Hartley: How did the WA SPD Support Group come to be? How long have you been leading this crusade?

Carrie: Hayley’s OT gave me the URL to an online support group and one night (very late) I finally found some parents who understood what I was going through. What a relief! I felt so much camaraderie with these women (none of whom lived anywhere near this side of the Mason Dixon line) that within a month I had volunteered to host support group meetings in Washington. That was back in the fall of 2000.

Hartley: Talk a little about how much that support group has “morphed”—you are online in virtually all 50 states, and have a Facebook site (with over 800 "friends") dedicated to connecting the country! How has this happened?

Carrie: Well, the state listservs were another 3am idea of mine. A little over three years ago, we opened a Yahoo listserv for our Washington support group members as a way to keep our families connected to one another in between our meetings. Our group was growing, and I was finding it difficult to keep up with all of the individual email I was getting and answering. I also thought that the entire group could benefit from the “answers” I was giving to the email questions, so I slowly shifted from individual email to a listserv. This worked so well for our parents in Washington, that I got to thinking that there should be a similar resource in every state in the U.S. So I did it .. it was a bit more work than I envisioned at 3 in the morning :)

Hartley: What do you say to those moms out there that want to do more to advocate in their own state? What could they do *today* to start finding and connecting with other families?

Carrie: Start by joining the listserv in their state and connecting with families who are already there and looking for support. Consider hosting support group meetings in their community (I’ll help get you started if you want to know how).

Hartley: Many of my readers (friends), me included, see you as a “Super Mom”. We often forget that you are still parenting a SPD kiddo of your own—although I seriously doubt that Hayley would be keen on the term “kiddo” as a teenager. How are *you* as a special needs mom—to a teenager no less!—these days?

Carrie: No different than anybody else who is raising a child with special needs. We all do the best we can every day, right? Most days I’m exhausted, some days I lose my temper with my child, and every day I hope to do better than I did yesterday. I mean, seriously, I think that every single parent who does their best, advocates for their child, and loves them every day is a hero, don’t you? This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world… Hayley is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Hartley: Yes, they are heros. I guess it is easier to say that about other women, and not so much ouselves--this is the hardest thing to do and we are ususally hard on ourselves. Ok, so most newly diagnosed moms that I come in contact with have the same questions: Will it get better? Will this ever be easier? What do you say to those women?

Carrie: I say that OT was the key to unlocking my child’s potential. A great OT, trained in sensory integration will make a difference. With the proper intervention and treatment, it DOES get better. OT alone isn’t the answer, but I believe it is the foundation to a child’s treatment plan. And oh my yes, it DOES get easier – promise!

Hartley: What does the advocacy work you have been doing mean to you?

Carrie: It’s something that I am just passionate about. If what I am doing keeps one family from feeling as desperate and frightened as I did 9 years ago, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something. As long as people are contacting me and looking for information, I’ve got work to do. My daughter’s story is one of hope and success. I’m willing to share it as long as people want to hear it.

Hartley: And it seems there are so many people out there still NEEDING to hear it and we are all so lucky that you are willing to lift our spirits with your family's story. On that note, you are always the first one to give a small bit of info to keep everyone’s spirits high as we navigate, what can often be a very scary path. Are there any little *gems* of wisdom you would like to share?

Carrie: Boy, I wish I did. I think I sound like a broken record most days, but truth be told, I don’t have any magic formula. If there is any formula for success, it’s not in any treatment plan; every child is different. Maybe it’s just this: there is strength in numbers, and I have met some of the most amazing women and men while advocating for SPD education, research and awareness. Reach out to families who, like you, are raising kiddos with SPD. Connect. You’ll be glad you did.

Hartley: I absolutely think that connection and support are the "magic pill"; it doesn't fix anything, but it sure makes life easier. Thank you Carrie, for your time, and your dedication to all of us and our families; you are changing the landscape of our children’s lives through your dedication and passion for advocating! In case I don’t say it enough; you are a fantastic mom and I am truly lucky to have you as a friend.

Carrie: Back at you Hartley. Thank you for keeping my days filled with laughter.

Back tomorrow with Gabriel's newly discovered vocabulary for describing his issues! Amazed me--

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