A website that’s ‘Special’

Ten years ago, when Chantai Snellgrove found out that her youngest daughter, Kailee, had special needs, she also discovered just how difficult it was to get information and help. She felt like if she didn’t ask the right questions, then she couldn’t get the right answers. But how could she know what to ask when she was going through this maze for the first time?

Kailee was diagnosed with Velo-cardio-facial Syndrome, and that didn’t “fit” into any typical and more widely known disabilities. This syndrome is defined by the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford as a genetic disorder resulting in certain heart defects, effects on facial appearance and lack of, or underdeveloped, thymus and parathyroid glands. There were no large support groups…no immediate help … no specific answers. There were some forums and discussion groups for specific disabilities, however, Kailee didn’t “fit” into these groups.

Even when Snellgrove attended some of these other groups, there might only be a few people there. Parents do have busy lives, and parents of children with special needs seem to get a double dose of busy!

Snellgrove felt that there had to be an easier and more efficient way. As a busy mother of two, a wife, and a businesswoman, she didn’t have time to read “another huge book” that another doctor mentioned. Why was there no place she could go that was able to provide information in a simplified format?

As a result, she thought that there had to be others who were equally as frustrated as she was. Snellgrove felt that if this were a business situation, she could go to someone who had “been there, done that.” Someone could act as a mentor. The Small Business Administration, Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau … there were places she could have gone … people who could help. Only this time, it was different; there was no place to go, no “meeting of the minds.”

So, Snellgrove set out to do for others that which could not be done for her. She was determined to help those who were coming through this “maze of questions” behind her and hopefully get those that were already farther down the path to share and shed some light on what lay ahead for her and Kailee.

Three years ago, using her background in graphic design, as well as her experience in magazine publication, Snellgrove set out to conceive, design, and publish “Parenting Special Needs Magazine.” It is a free, online, bi-monthly publication that is dedicated to helping the special needs community. It covers all the ages and all of the stages and all of the different disabilities, as well as providing an invaluable resource for the parents and caregivers of those with special needs.

Snellgrove feels that one of the most rewarding things about the magazine is the feedback she receives from readers. She feels that if the magazine only helps one person, then it is a success. “Parenting Special Needs” has subscribers from as far away as China. She has more than 12,000 Facebook fans (and growing), and she is constantly receiving e-mails and letters from people all over the world who have benefitted, in some way, by being a member of the community.

Stephanie F, from Mesa, AZ, wrote on Facebook, “My son is 7, and has a lot of different issues, mostly behavioral ones. I read your article on the sensory ideas. LOVED IT!! I have his bedroom painted bright colors, SpongeBob actually. I did it myself about three years ago. After reading your article, I realized that I could be causing his overstimulation! So, I’m going to repaint his room and make it a little more sensory friendly for him! Thank you so much!”

Snellgrove determined, from the start, to make the information available to all for free. She simply asks readers to subscribe. There is no selling of e-mail addresses, no spamming, just the building of a community for those who wish to make the lives of their loved ones, who have special needs, as meaningful and as significant as possible.

The publication was also designed to be as green as possible. No waste. No trees harmed. No additional costs that have to be passed on. Snellgrove felt passionately that the information needs to be accessible to as many people as possible. The Internet proved to be the perfect vehicle to disseminate the information as parents are able to access the magazine any time and anywhere there is Internet service. The magazine is filled with information, inspiration, motivation, resources, assistance, advice, and help.

Tom Snellgrove is the publisher of Parenting Special Needs Magazine, www.parentingspecialneeds.org, as well as the husband of Chantai and father of Kailee, now 14 years old.