Written by: Julie Walters
As the mother of a child who is autistic, has epilepsy and a rare disease (PCDH19), I know firsthand how challenging and downright frustrating it can be to find the right resources and services for your child. It often feels like an endless search through countless online forums, outdated directories, and articles, not knowing which sources to trust. This frustration led me to create The Connected Parent, a comprehensive database of services for families who have children with disabilities, rare diseases, mental health issues, chronic illnesses, and behavioral challenges.
The idea for The Connected Parent came to me when I was trying to find a non-public school for my Autistic daughter. I spent hours searching online, consulting my mom friends, and trying to get recommendations from other parents, but I felt frustrated by the lack of reliable and easily accessible information about schools that supported neurodivergent students. I couldn't understand how I could get a mortgage online a tenth of the time and with less paperwork then it took me to find a school, which happened to be located just 20 minutes from our home. I realized that what we needed was a resource that would bring all the information together in one place, with reviews from other parents who had used the services. I wanted something that would feel like a personal recommendation from a trusted friend on a similar journey.
I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I was going to try. As a mission and values based decision maker, both in business and in my personal life (they are inseparable for me), one thing that was important to me was that we hire people who are part of the disability and neurodivergent community and compensate them for their time. So, along with my amazing operations manager, a rare disease sibling and former special education teacher herself, and our awesome team of project coordinators, all affected by disability in some way, we set out and have been building something useful and beautiful for our community to use.
I wanted to create a resource that would be robust but also easy to use, even for busy parents and caregivers like myself. The database includes a large variety of resources, from recreational activities, accessible travel, to neurodiversity-affirming therapists, special education advocates, dentists, sensory friendly hair salons, and much more. The filters we created and continue to improve-upon make it easy to find services that match specific needs, and the reviews from other families provide an honest and relatable perspective.
One of the things that make The Connected Parent unique is that it's free to join and use. It was important to me that the resource I created be accessible to every family, regardless of their financial situation. The only thing we ask in return is that users add services they have used and leave reviews to help other families. By building a community around The Connected Parent, we can help each other find the right resources and support and pay it forward.
Another essential aspect of The Connected Parent is community support. Raising a child with a disability can be isolating if you don't have a community, and many parents feel like they're on their own. But by connecting with other families through The Connected Parent, you can find a supportive network of people who understand what you're going through. That's why we encourage users to share the resource with other families, spread the word, and build a community around it, and hopefully that turns into a local community where you can enjoy the resources together.
Creating The Connected Parent has been a labor of love for me, and I'm proud of the resource we've built. I hope that by sharing my story, other families will be inspired to join us, find the support they need, and build a community around themselves through The Connected Parent. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our children and support each other. Thank you for joining us on this journey.