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Welcome to SEAC!

Well, here it is: our first blog post for our brand new SEAC website. How exciting! I’ve been waiting for this day, when we could roll out this organization to the community, and begin to offer comprehensive and effective services to families, for many years.

When my son first was diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder in 2001, I thought my world had ended. I was angry. I was frightened. I was incredibly sad for my son’s older brother. I was jealous of my friends who had neurotypical toddlers who were thriving and laughing and starting to walk and talk. Truth be told, I was a mess.

If you’re a parent reading this, you get it. I’ve always maintained that on this journey, the period leading up to diagnosis, and receiving a diagnosis for your child, are the hardest, most painful parts. For me, during the agonizing months leading up to my son’s diagnosis, I experienced despair, fear and worry unlike any I had ever known.

But then this miraculous thing happens – over time, we begin to accept our child’s diagnosis, we are thrust into the world of therapy and intervention, we roll up our sleeves and become experts on what our child needs. In short, we become our child’s best advocate.

And then our child turns three, and suddenly we have to navigate the school system. For many of us, this becomes the second most difficult challenge in our journey. The special education system is regulated by a complex set of federal and state laws, regulations, rules and comments. It’s obtuse and confusing. It’s also overwhelming and frightening; decisions about a child’s education are made in meetings where parents typically are greatly outnumbered by school personnel, and although parents technically are a part of their child’s “team,” in many cases, it doesn’t feel that way to parents.

That’s where we come in. Although direct advocacy is just one piece of the work that SEAC will be doing, it’s a critical and important part. Through these services, we hope to provide support and strength to parents attempting to advocate for their children in this setting. Through being there for families, it is our objective not only to achieve positive outcomes for students, but to provide a much-needed sense of support to parents who may feel like they are alone in the process.

My desire to provide this support to others stems from the difficulties our family experienced obtaining appropriate services for our son when we moved from out of state to Tennessee in 2004. In the midst of those struggles, I committed myself to helping other families who were experiencing similar challenges. The road from 2004 to today has been a little slower than I would have liked, but we’ve arrived at our destination: the establishment of an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering the families of students with disabilities.

Along the way, there have been some very special people who have been instrumental in making SEAC possible. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank them for their help:

holly lu conant-rees – many of you know this remarkable woman. She has been my mentor through the years since 2004. I would not be where I am today, and I suspect that SEAC would not be here, either, without her guidance, wisdom, knowledge, passion and friendship.

Wendy Tucker – many of you also know Wendy. She is a staunch advocate for all kids, and I’ll never forget the first telephone conversation we had (probably sometime in late 2004). Wendy was my first partner in SEAC, but made the difficult decision to leave the organization in 2011 to join the Mayor’s staff. She is doing remarkable work for the students of Nashville in that role, and we are all very proud of her. SEAC, however, would not be here had it not been for Wendy’s dedication and commitment to seeing this organization get off the ground.

Belinda Pandey – another amazing Mom and community advocate. I’ve known Belinda since 2004 and she helped our family navigate services and the system when we arrived here that year. She now serves on SEAC’s Board, and through a generous donation, made the development of this website possible.

Christine Sartain – SEAC’s Co-Director of Organization & Policy. I met Christine, Mom to a young child with Down Syndrome, last May and over the next several months she and I began talking about partnering to continue SEAC after Wendy’s departure. Christine brings to the table many incredible skills, along with a passion for supporting and serving families. I am so grateful to her for agreeing to be a part of this organization.

There are many others who have helped us get here today. Thank you to all of you who have been a part of this journey. We look forward to continuing to work with all of you, and to meeting and supporting many new families over the coming months and years.