Other People's Words

Interview with Nathan and Renee Charlan of Exceptional Family TV

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on August 28, 2010

This is a transcript of Autism Women’s Network’s interview with founders and hosts of Exceptional Family TV, Nathan Charlan and his wife Renee Charlan.


Sharon daVanport: Good day, everyone, and welcome to AWN radio on Blogtalk. I am your host, Sharon daVanport, coming to you live from the beautiful Midwest in the United States. Today is Saturday, August 14, 2010. Before we get started by bringing out our guests for today, Nathan and Renee Charlan from Exceptional Family TV, I want to remind everyone about our monthly prize giveaways here on AWN radio.

We have two of them, actually, that we rotate with every other month. We have our monthly giveaway from b-Calm Sound, and b-Calm is actually the leaders in Audio Sedation technology. They offer soundtracks which are helping both children and adults with ADD, ADHD, and ASDs to relax, relieve stress and increase their level of concentration. They offer monthly giveaway packages here on AWN radio that go along with MP3 players. It’s just a really great gift; people really enjoy getting those, and they really like the different sounds that b-Calm offers.

We also have our monthly prize giveaway from LifePROTEKT. And with them, LifePROTEKT provides care providers and individuals and organizations involved with the special needs population like autism and Alzheimer’s with location-based GPS technologies, as well as a network of support they’re offering children and adults, consisting of GPS personal locators, emergency notifiers and Amber Alerts.

They’re a very interesting organization. They offer, like I said, also, a network of support, so it’s ongoing. It’s not just like you get the device and that’s it. They actually follow up with the families and keep up with all the things going, so we encourage everybody to get over to their websites.

I’d like to bring on our guests now. As I said, they are the host and co-host of Exceptional Family TV, Nathan and Renee Charlan. Welcome, Nathan. Welcome, Renee.

Nathan Charlan Thank you.

Renee Charlan Thank you.

Sharon daVanport: Thank you for being with us this morning. We really appreciate it. I’m excited to hear more about Exceptional Family TV and what you guys are all about. I’d first like to start out by just having you guys tell us about Exceptional Family TV in as much as how it got started. What was the inspiration behind it?

Nathan Charlan Absolutely. Exceptional Family TV is an online home destination for families who are raising children with special needs. The hook to it is that we do a weekly docu-reality series on just the behind-the-scenes realities of what it’s like to raise a child with special needs. We define “child” as like the federal age of zero through 21. We do have future plans to go beyond for families raising adults with special needs or just adults living their lives as well.

Renee Charlan The inspiration, really, for it came from a grandmother from Tennessee who was on the Internet who had a grandson with cerebral palsy. She was just looking for information for he daughter, who was really struggling with diagnosis and what to do next. And she actually found our YouTube and saw videos that Nathan had posted of him and Zachary; he was talking about what it was like to be a parent raising a child with special needs. She ended up contacting us and helped us get started, and get this up and going with Exceptional Family TV—get the website started and the shows and the production block started.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. And you mentioned about Zachary. Zachary is your son, correct, and he’s special needs? Can you tell our listeners about that, so they have some background information on that?

Renee Charlan Yeah. Zachary has cerebral palsy [through?] significant brain damage. He is not cognitively affected, but his body just doesn’t work for him. Around six months, he was diagnosed with West Syndrome, which is also infantile spasms. We got that under control, but he does still have that diagnosis of a seizure history. That is what we have gone through with Zach.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. So you were contacted by the grandmother who was looking for information for her daughter, and then you guys got together and that’s how this idea was born?

Nathan Charlan Yes. We collaborated with a couple companies. I’m a television producer by trade, and the production company I work with, Warm Springs Productions, was a brand new startup company. They’re very sensitive to my family situation and were very willing to help me out in this endeavor. So they contributed their resources to help get this started.

Another company in Montana that does website development, Bridgeworks Creative,they had a heart for the special needs community and decided to help us build this professional website platform for it. So they, too, contributed their resources to the project. And through that, we’ve been working on this probably for a year now. We launched the website in late January, and were able to start airing the episodes online, come April 30.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. All right. That’s nice. So this is so our listeners will understand how Exceptional Family TV works. Some of your stories, they’re ongoing, correct? You have Part 1, Part 2—are they kind of in a series and you feature different families at different times?

Nathan Charlan Correct. Most of them are just a two-part series. We haven’t had anything that goes beyond a two-part yet. The shows are about five to ten minutes long. So sometimes there’s two different aspects to a family’s story, and so we’ll tell one aspect in Part 1 and the second aspect in Part 2. We cover stories of families raising all sorts of children with different diagnoses. There’s nothing specific that we look for. We also will do regular updates with our family about what we’re doing, where we might be traveling, what therapies we might be getting for Zachary.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. So how would you describe your show, for people who have never watched an episode? How would you describe your show and why would you recommend it to people?

Nathan Charlan Our [description?] of the show is…We call it a docu-reality series, which means that we’re documenting real people’s lives, but we’re also doing it in an interview fashion. Renee and I will come into the home of a family and sit down and interview them about what life is like, what struggles they go through, but also what joys and triumphs they go through.

We also will interview people who are serving the special needs community. Maybe they’re a therapist or a volunteer. Or maybe, for one example, we interviewed the sheriff who developed Project Lifesaver.

[Nathan and Renee are on a cell phone, and keep cutting out].

Sorry. We’re actually traveling back home to Colorado from Arizona from a week-long therapy trip for Zachary.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, okay. Well, that’s okay. We’ll just keep trying to make for sure we can keep you on the air. I can hear you find now. That happens when people call in on cell phones sometimes. That’s okay. [Laughter]

Renee Charlan I really am enjoying the shows we do to be informational things about how people are helping the special needs community, like that Project Lifesaver. But also different kinds of equipment, like the Quadriciser and different things that families have actually created in their journey of needing to find something that works for their family, but there’s nothing out there or it was too expensive. And we’ve interviewed different companies like that. I really enjoy doing those, to see all the new things out there that we don’t really know about.

Sharon daVanport: Sure. So you’d like to have people on that can pass along valuable resources to the community, and so forth. So when it comes to doing the interviews, how do you go about choosing? Do you have a process where you have people apply to tell their story? Or are you guys just going by word of mouth at this point? How are you guys going about getting the families that you feature?

Renee Charlan Yeah. At this point, we started out…We had two production blocks: one in Denver, and one in Memphis, Tennessee. We did those two areas because we were from Denver and the grandmother was from Memphis, Tennessee. So we both knew people within our community, and could start there with resources [and people] who already knew us.

But from this point on, if we are able to do another production block coming up, right now people have already submitted their stories. You can do it at info AT exceptionalfamilytv DOT com. And when the time comes, we try to do really positive stories, so we look for things where people have, through their circumstances, really found the positive in the situation and how they’ve handled everything.

Nathan Charlan But we also still cover all the raw emotions—the struggles and the obstacles that are overcome. But we’ll also hear about the joys and the triumphs and those great milestones that parents appreciate.

Sharon daVanport: Well, in the few episodes that I’ve been able to watch, I really appreciate the balance that you bring to it. I think you do a good job of bringing am overall balance—like you said, the challenges, but also talk about the joys and the strengths.

A lot of families talk about the strengths that they’ve gotten from having the experience of having a special needs child. And I really appreciate that myself. I’m not only on the spectrum myself, but I’m raising a child on the spectrum. So there are challenges, but also, too, it can’t be denied that there’s a certain kind of strength that comes from the challenges that we experience in life. It can make us who we are in a better way, so I appreciate that about the positive spin you guys do over there. I think it’s a good job that you do.

I wanted to also say we’ve got a late joiner with us: my co-host, Tricia. Are you there, Tricia? I saw that you just logged in.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, yes I am. So sorry about that. I was having some big technical issues on my side, but I made it through.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, gosh. That happened a couple weeks ago. You having problems logging into Blogtalk?

Tricia Kenney: I had a couple of problems. That, but also my keyboard was stuck in scroll-lock, and I couldn’t make it [laughter].

Sharon daVanport: Way to go, Tricia! Well, Nathan and Renee, this is Tricia. [unknown] She’s the co-host.

Tricia Kenney: Hi, Renee. Hi, Nathan.

Nathan Charlan Hello.

Sharon daVanport: We were just talking about the positive spin that they bring to…what you and I were actually talking about last night, Tricia, when we were discussing the Exceptional Family TV episodes: that we appreciated the balance that they bring.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, and that’s so important. I think families really, really need to have somewhere where they can look and see some of those positive messages, instead of; “Jeez. Life is hard” and “Jesz, this isn’t fair,” and all that. Although it’s good to get that stuff out every now and then when you need to, it’s also good to see some of the really positive things that people are doing in the disability community.

Nathan Charlan Absolutely, and that’s what we want to try to focus on. If [someone’s] tuning in for the first time who might just be getting the first diagnosis for their child, to give them the hope. Also, a real look to the world of what life is going to be like.

Renee Charlan Also for others outside the community, because people who are in this community, we do talk with each other so much that we forget how to [unknown] friends that are outside the special needs community, and how to [talk] about what they’re going through. It’s just a window for them to be able to see what it is we go through, and why we react the way we do to certain situations.

Tricia Kenney: Do you get a lot of people tuning in who aren’t a part of the disabilities community?

Renee Charlan Probably just people who actually know us or know someone who’s been on the show.

Nathan Charlan Beyond that, the people outside—at least the ones that have given me feedback—have been ones in the medical and therapeutic communities. We’ve been contacted by a lot of medical students, nursing students, therapy students who have seen our videos and just [sent] me a thank-you by e-mail that that’s really helped them understand the field that they’re going into so much better.

Tricia Kenney: Right. Because if you’re not living it, it’s hard to grasp exactly what that life would entail.

Nathan Charlan Absolutely. You get a lot of callous therapists or a lot of callous doctors out there, because they see you for five minutes, ten minutes in a day, and they don’t really get to see beyond that: what the family life is like at home. That’s what we’re trying to capture with these episodes. And it’s also to give these families a voice. A lot of the time, they’re in their circle of family and friends sharing their journey. But in these episodes, you get to capture this forever on the Web, so that anybody around the world can [unknown] to their voice.

Tricia Kenney: Right. And it just brings them out of that isolated setting, I guess.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Can you give our listeners an idea of the different kinds of disabilities and different families that you’ve featured on Exceptional Family TV?

Renee Charlan I’ll start with the ones that I remember off the top of my head. Our first episode was actually a boy named Jack, who has autism and he was functionally non-verbal for nine years until his mom gave him a video camera and he was able to process the 2D world much easier than the 3D world. He became verbal, and is doing much better.

Sharon daVanport: You said his diagnosis was autism. Is that correct?

Renee Charlan Correct.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. I’m sorry. You were cutting out a little bit again, so I wanted to make sure. You said Jack was the one that you guys featured with autism. Okay.

Renee Charlan And then we also in a second episode talked with his mother about the different struggles she’s gone through, with marriage and family life, dealing with that.

Nathan Charlan We’ve done a story with the Oswald family from Missouri, who have a daughter with a chromosome disorder, and it’s actually a very, very unique one: one in a billion. They only know of one other child in the world alive right now that has this particular condition. I think they said four total, from researching medical journals going back to the ’70s. So that very, very rare disorder.

Renee Charlan We’ve done a story on a little girl who was only born with 20 percent of her optic nerve. She’s legally blind and also has sensory issues. They actually went to China to have stem-cell treatment done.

Nathan Charlan We also discovered a family that we’re friends with in Colorado. Their daughter doesn’t have a diagnosis. The doctors can’t answer any of their questions; she’s been given a cerebral palsy diagnosis and a [West?] Syndrome one, but there’s more to it than that, and the doctors have no answers for them. So we talked with them about what it’s like to live in a world with no answers, as far as your child goes. So many of us have that experience for maybe a couple weeks while we’re trying to search out the diagnosis, but they’ve gone five years with no answers.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, my.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow. My goodness. And you guys had Taylor Morris on, correct?

Nathan Charlan Yes. We did an interview through Skype with her on our Memphis block, but we haven’t aired the episode yet. That’ll probably be airing in the second season.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. That’s nice. We’ve had Taylor on our radio show.

Tricia Kenney: She’s a [wonderful?] young lady.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Renee Charlan We were just so intrigued by her. She was the first grown person that could really explain things to us, and since we hadn’t been around autism all that much, we were just absolutely intrigued. Even after the interview, we just stayed on the call with her and kept asking her so many questions.

Tricia Kenney: [Adults are?] so important too. I know a lot of times we focus on children in the disabilities community, because that’s what strikes at everybody’s heart chords. We just want to help the children—always want to help the children.

But it’s really great when we get to talk to adults who can give us some insight. I know in the autism sector of this, that was the one thing I really wanted to seek out as soon as my children were diagnosed. I wanted to talk to autistic adults and get some idea of what my children were going through and what I could expect, and so on and so forth.

It was really difficult. First when I asked the psychologist: “Where are some autistic adults I could get in contact with?” they had absolutely no clue. I think it’s wonderful when there are programs out there—your program, and there’s a lot of other people starting little programs and networks and so on that really bring forth these people, so that parents do have an idea of what’s going to happen. They at least know that there are people out there to contact and figure something out about their own lives.

Renee Charlan [Unknown[ the same thing. Every person [we speak to?] that’s an adult that has cerebral palsy, because that’s what our son has, we just want to have a conversation with them and ask them [unknown]. “How is it that your brain’s actually working? What are you thinking when your body doesn’t work?” So I totally understand that part of it. And know that our website is reaching out right now to the parents raising children with special needs, but they also want to hear [unknown] we do, so it was very interesting doing things like that, and talking with [unknown].

Sharon daVanport: Can you guys give your contact information and your website information?

Nathan Charlan Absolutely. The website is Exceptional Family TV. Our contact information, as far as e-mail: nathan AT exceptionalfamilytv DOT com and rennee AT exceptionalfamilytv DOT com.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. And to watch your episodes, do our listeners need to be registered at your site?

Nathan Charlan No. Just go to the site and watch the episodes. We also have a behind-the-scenes section and a kiddo-cam section. But viewing is absolutely free. You don’t have to register. If you’d like to join the discussion; if you’d like to comment on the episdes and discuss in the forums and comment on some of the bloggers’ posts, then yeah, it would be a signup thing. We have a video right there at the top that walks you through how to join the E Family TV community.

Renee Charlan But it is all free. Just regsitering, it’s just giving a little bit of information, but it is all free.

Sharon daVanport: Now, your site has a forum, you were saying. Can you tell our listeners about the forum that you have going on now?

Nathan Charlan Absolutely. It’s really in its infancy stages right now. We’re in the process of redesigning it, but we’re going to have a list of threads by diagnosis, so families can connect with one another to talk about the different stages they’re going through in their child’s development. We’ll have a lot of sections for certain therapies.

Renee Charlan We have “Navigating the School System,” anything like that that if someone posts a question, we’ll have an administrator who’s always watching that and can answer questions that people have.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Tricia Kenney: So how does somebody get on your show?

Nathan Charlan Oh, to be featured on the show?

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Renee Charlan The main thing right now is to just submit your story to info AT exceptionalfamilytv DOT com, and if we [unknown] we are capable of another production block right now. We are just in the beginning stages. We’re still searching for funding to be able to do another production block, but once that comes and we have a sponsor, we will then do another production block and base that off of people who have submitted stories. Then just try to do it isolated by area, so we can do a full week in one area and get out a really wide range of topics.

Tricia Kenney: So you guys [are?] travelling around the country to do these shows?

Renee Charlan Yes.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. That’s amazing. I imagine, yeah, you would need a good budget to be able to do so.

Nathan Charlan For those that we can’t reach in the country, we’ll do Skype calls. We did a Skype call with a mom from Australia, and the Morris interview was done by Skype call. It’s actually a really clear video on both ends. Hopefully we supplement that with a B-roll such as photos and home videos submitted by the family. So we will do those global interviews.

Renee Charlan Yeah. When we do go on location and actually travel to meet people, we have a professional production crew that comes with us. [It’s] actually the production company that Nathan’s full-time job is at.

Tricia Kenney: Okay.

Sharon daVanport: Very nice. I hope that you guys end up getting the funding to be able to continue doing this. That would be awesome, with the really important work that you’re doing. Do you offer a blog? You were saying that your site has blogs—people can comment on blogs? Do you have regular bloggers there? Can anyone blog there? How does that work?

Nathan Charlan Yes. Actually Renee and I, we blog there. We have posts. We also have what we call the “EFTV family” of bloggers. So we have five different families, all with different diagnoses or different stages that they’re going through. One is even raising an adult with autism. They’re regular blog posters there; they’ll post at least once a week. And that’s our [unknown] right there. We’re open to gathering up more for our family of bloggers. Again, you can just contact Renee or I by e-mail and we’ll look at what you have to offer.

Sharon daVanport: Very nice. I’m sorry, Tricia—I heard you get ready to say something and I just jumped in there.

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter] That happens on the radio. That’s okay. I was also going to ask: So do you have a son with cerebral palsy?

Renee Charlan Yes.

Tricia Kenney: Okay. And how old is he?

Renee Charlan He is three and a half.

Tricia Kenney: Aww.

Renee Charlan We’re actually [unknown] home [unknown] movement therapy for him, and we’re halfway home right now [Laughter] and just doing fabulous. He has cerebral palsy, but he also has a diagnosis of infantile spasms or West Syndrome. He had seizures as a baby.

Tricia Kenney: Aww.

Renee Charlan But he’s doing great.

Nathan Charlan He’s globally affected by the developmental delay. The brain damage causes him to have high tone in his muscles. So he can very stiff in his muscles when he gets excited and he has a tendency to scissor his legs and cross his arms, too. From the top of his head down to his toes, it’s veery difficult for him to control his body movement.

Renee Charlan No walking, no sitting, nothing like that yet.

Tricia Kenney: Okay.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Tricia Kenney: Now, I had a landlord whose son, he’s probably about 20, 21 now. The same sort of thing with him. What I found is she was just the most wonderful person to us, because she understood, even though they have such different diagnoses, she understood how hard it can be to be a parent with a special needs child. It was a really wonderful relationship we had. She understood when things happened around the house, or how difficult some things might be for me, considering our sitution. And so she would have somebody do our yardwork for us, or things like that. And they were just a really wonderful family, and I think it’s great when special needs families do get to be around each other. Even if their diagnosis is so completely different, they do have that camaraderie and caring and that extra little bit of empathy. I think it’s just wonderful.

But, yeah, he is doing really well, too. We would go out for ice cream all the time with them [Laughter], and he was just a sweet kid. I think it’s nice when we expand past just what’s going on in our corner of the world, and realize that there’s so many other things going on with families everywhere, and how we can all benefit each other. We don’t have to stay so isolated.

Renee Charlan Right. We actually have really connected with our general practitioner doctor. We don’t even go to a pediatrician, because he’s been [unknown]. He has two children that have disabilities. They’re different than Zach, but the connection [unknown] that we all go through in raising a child with special needs.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm. And I think it’s great that you’re not being so pinpointed in what you guys are doing in your shows: that you are going out there and doing a full range of things. I’m sure you’re going to keep doing that. I think people like to know that they can all be a part of things together.

Sharon daVanport: Nathan and Renee, how can people in the disability community network this for you guys and get the word out? I know that for funding you’re going to need some sponsors. Beyond the sponsorship that you guys will need, I’m sure volunteers. That helps a lot, when you have volunteers that can contribute different things to the cause that you have going and the network that you have over at Exceptional Family TV. What are some of the things that, if you could be either general or specific—however specific you want to be—that you could get the word out, so that when people hear this show, they know what you’re looking for?

Nathan Charlan Absolutely. Right now, we’re trying to get the general media attention out there. We live in Denver, so we’re trying to get the Denver market to cover the story. We’re also trying to get the national media to cover the story of what we’re doing. We really are unique in that we’re the only ones who are making a weekly online reality show for the special needs community.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Nathan Charlan Another thing that we’ve thought about is having the community of bloggers out there—moms, dads, families—who want to feature this story in a blog post, or wanted to interview us as well, to spread it virally. We’re also looking just for people to come in and join our forums, participate in those, keep the chatter in the community up, and just regular watchers. If there’s a show that you particularly like, share it on Facebook. We do have a Facebook fan page. And we have a lot of integration between Facebook and our own website, so that you could recommend a video or share it immediately on your page. We’ve built up quite a good community on our Facebook page already, too. It’s about 2300 fans.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, very good. Very good. Are you guys on Twitter as well?

Renee Charlan We’re getting that started. I just took on the role of doing all the social networks and things like that, and I’m just figuring out Twitter. [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: I’m still trying to figure it out, Renee. That’s okay. Now, Tricia’s really good at Twitter. If you want to know about Twitter, she can tell you about that. There’s some people over there who really know how to use Twitter. I’m still trying to watch them to figure out and make for sure I use it right. I’m still not quite sure I do. But it’s a good tool. I’ve heard that Twitter’s really great to [unknown] things on.

Tricia Kenney: It is. It is, and there’s a huge audience there. So many people you can tap into, and, again, there are so many sectors of the disability community on there with their own communities and networks that they’ve begun on there as well. It’s a really great place for people to connect. It’s like a constant IM session. [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: When we promote this, is it okay if Tricia and I let everyone know that if they want to contact you, to keep the word going, to find out how they could be part of your network? Just the contact at info AT exceptionalfamilytv DOT com ? Is that correct?

Renee Charlan Absolutely.

Nathan Charlan That would be wonderful.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Tricia Kenney: If you need any tips about Twitter, just hit me up. I’ll be happy to talk with you about it.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah. She knows how to use that, Renee. I’d take her up on that, if I were you.

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: I can spend days on Twitter trying to get something going viral, and no response. And then I’ll call Tricia—she hadn’t been on Twitter—and I’ll be like: “Can you get over on Twitter and do this?” She makes two tweets and it gets retweeted a thousand times. [Laughter] Maybe not a thousand; at least a hundred. It’s like: “What is going on?” Thee’s an art to it, there truly is. And so I’d definitely take her up on that, Renee. [Laughter] Because networking, I know, I’m starting to find that out with the AWN now: networking’s really important. It really is. So I would be glad to help get the word out for you guys. The couple episodes that I’ve been able to watch on the Exceptional Family TV is really good: good quality video. It looks just really good.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Nathan Charlan Thank you very much. Yeah, the production company that I work for, they send two professional cameramen with us and a production block, with a full light kit and everything. So we’re professionally shooting everything, getting that high quality feel to each episode. So we bring that broadcast quality to it. Now, Renee and I will have fun filming our lives with just our little home video camera, and that’ll look a little different. It’ll look a little more home video-like.

Renee Charlan [Random?] episode of our family, where we’re trying to fill in a little bit of our reality base to it. [Unknown] doing things within the special needs community. But it will be our family when we need to have little episodes here and there, to fill in.

Sharon daVanport: Right. [Unknown]

Tricia Kenney: That’s really good to do, because people want to connect with whoever’s doing these projects and productions. They want to be able to know where you come from, what motivates you and a little bit about your personal life. I think that’s such a huge connection for people to make, and that’s where that fanbase really starts building up, because they feel that closeness with you.

Nathan Charlan Thank you. One example of what we’re going to do is make an episode out of this Arizona trip we took that’ll air probably on Friday, and show the therapy that Zachary did. It was a—I can’t pronounce it.

Renee Charlan Anat Baniel Method.

Nathan Charlan Yes. And Michelle Turner in Peoria, Arizona invited us down to have her work on Zachary in an intensive week of [unknown]. So we’ll cover what we did: our travels, having fun on the journey down and back to Colorado, and also what the therapy was and how it benefited Zach for the week.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. That sounds really interesting.

Sharon daVanport: Well, it sounds very educational, too. That’s very important. It’s getting into the lives of people, it’s sharing with people resources, information, education. This could really take off. I really hope that it does for you guys. It sounds really great.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Renee Charlan And one other thing I was going to say that people could do. If they would like to send us ideas through info AT exceptionalfamilytv DOT com or at renee AT exceptionalfamilytv DOT com, just ideas of what you would like to see in the show. Do you want to see more different kinds of therapies that Zach tries? Do you want to see more families with a certain diagnosis? Do you want to see more organizations? Just what they’re interested in actually seeing, we do really want to know that from the community.

Tricia Kenney: A lot of people hear of different therapies or methods that are being offered out there, and aren’t quite sure if they should bother. A lot of it is trekking across the country or even to a different country to try a therapy or a treatment. It’s nice to see first-hand from a family instead of reading it somewhere and wondering who these people are, and if they’re like my family or if it’s just somebody who works for that company trying to promote their product. So I think it’s nice when you see real people going out there and seeing what works. I think that’s what a lot of people want to know: “Is this going to work for my child?”

Renee Charlan Right. [Unknown] that people will just really connect on that level and that they’ll really [unknown] us or another family do a therapy and it didn’t work, so that they have that information.

Sharon daVanport: That’s right.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah. That’s just as important; that’s right. Did you say that you’re going to have your next episode coming up? Is it going to be, you said, this Friday?

Nathan Charlan Yes. Well, we typically post them on Thursday evenings, but just in case we have a technical glitch [Laughter], we say Friday mornings as a definitive launch. But I don’t think we’ve missed a Thursday evening launch yet.

Renee Charlan Well, we have—


Sharon daVanport: Well, that’s good.


That’s good. All right. Well, is there anything else that you guys want to share that we didn’t ask? You guys would know best, because [it’s] your TV show. Is there anything you would like to add or share with our listeners?

Nathan Charlan Overall, we want the Exceptional Family TV site to be a fun resource site. You were mentioning you go out there searching for resources and therapies and things like this for your child’s diagnosis, and you’re bombarded by all of this different information. Some of it’s not very fun, not very easy to wade through.

What we’re trying to do with these episodes is provide a fun, welcoming atmosphere that you could watch these entertaining videos, and get sucked up into somebody else’s story. But also, you could take away a lot from that. And then, beyond the episode, you can join in to the Exceptional Family community and talk with other parents, other families, and share your experiences, share your journey, talk about all the different resources available. Talk about the different wisdom that people have, because everyone is at a different stage with their child. So somebody might have been there, done that and can help out another family coming up.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm. Very good. Wonderful.

Sharon daVanport: Tricia [clears throat] Hold on one second. I’ve got to sneeze. Can you take over, Tricia?

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter] Yep. When you do live radio, these things happen. [Laughter]

Renee Charlan Yeah, and just this one place, like Nathan was saying, you have so much out there that, for me, I was absolutely blessed to be married to a man who is very organized and good at that kind of stuff. It’s typically the mother that does that, but my husband was amazing at it. I’m not an A-type personality, so I don’t know what I would’ve done if I wasn’t married to him, because there is so much out there. I would’ve just been so confused and probably given up without even knowing where to look.

But if we create this one central place where people can go, and then when they go to look up the diagnosis and they go to look for something there, they can click and then go straight to what they’re looking for, instead of just being bombarded with hundreds and thousands of different websites.

Tricia Kenney: Right. And as wonderful as the Internet is, it also makes things so confusing. It’s good to hear first-hand accounts of what people are going through—real families, what they’re experiencing. A friend of mine has a 25-year-old son and she just within the past year found a physical therapy that works for him. He’s making huge strides right now, and I’m so happy for their family. But it took a long time of going through a whole bunch of other therapists and different types of therapies to be able to get to that point.

Renee Charlan Which is exactly what we have gone through, where we’re trying a bunch of different things, but then didn’t know what to try. The therapy we tried this week, we probably would’ve never tried it if she didn’t contact us. I had heard about it, but I hadn’t heard enough about it to [be] really educated to decide to actually do it. And if we could come to the site and see a whole bunch of different [therapies] and then watch the videos, see how they reacted for different diagnoses, and then make a decision on which one they actually want to try, that would’ve been an invaluable resource for us in trying a hundred things.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, I know. I know immediately when my children were diagnosed, people were like: “Okay, call this center and call that center, and they do this there and they do that there,” and you’re just not sure if that’s something you want to do with your children. Some of it sounds a little bit out there. [Laughter]

Renee Charlan Right. [Laughter]

Tricia Kenney: And it’s like: “I’m not sure we’re ready to go through that right now.” [Laughter]

Renee Charlan I agree.

Tricia Kenney: Like I said, it’s great when you see real people, real families and their experiences, and it’s not somebody trying to sell you something.

Sharon daVanport: Hi, this is Sharon again. I’m sorry I had to leave so quickly. [Laughter] My allergies have really been acting up; I’m really sorry about that. I don’t mean to sound so rude. But I also had a question for you, Renee and Nathan, about getting together to be the host and co-host of the show. How does that work, being married? Is that a good thing for you guys, to be able to collaborate on these different ideas? Has it been something that’s been real helpful?

Renee Charlan I think that it’s been getting to a really good place. I think…When we first started, there was no plan when the idea first started, for me to have anything to do with it. I was just going to keep being a mom to Zach and Nathan was going to be the host, because I didn’t want to. I didn’t have any desire to be on camera; I didn’t want to watch myself; I’ve never been that kind of person that wanted to be in front of an actual video camera.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Renee Charlan But after the very first day of production, I saw that it would be a good thing for me to be a part of it. It would be good to have the mother’s perspective on things when we’re talking to other mothers. That it’s not just Nathan not knowing what to do if a mom starts crying in an interview.

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter]

Renee Charlan Things like that, where it feels uncomfortable. But [still have me?] there, too, and I could try to build up a relationship sometimes even through online beforehand. But now that I’m in it, I think that we do really great with discussing ideas. We have very different personalities and very different ideas, so I think it’s kind of fun to bring those together.

When you were talking about the stories and you were talking about our family and having that personal…people could kind of follow our family a little bit, the funny part with that was Nathan’s initial reaction from the beginning to all of that has been: “There’s nothing interesting about our family, Renee.” And I’m like: “But you need to give people a focus.” And he’s like: “But there’s nothing interesting about us! What are people going to want to watch?”

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter]

Renee Charlan [Unknown] with people [in?] the same stage of life as they are, or just connecting with people your own age, or children their own age, or same amount of kids, or whatever it is, even if there’s just little bits here and there, it gives that connection. I really like feeling like I do get to be a part of it and actually get to connect with people now, instead of just being on the sidelines.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tricia Kenney: And it is interesting. I think a lot of families feel like that: “Well, we don’t really do anything. There’s nothing exciting going on here.” But it is. It’s real life, it’s real families, and that’s what people want to see. It doesn’t have to be all fireworks and Hollywood names. We want to see people like ourselves, and that is important and that is special. So I think that’s a very important aspect to keep going.

Renee Charlan Now, I think we’re just doing great talking with each other and working it out.

Nathan Charlan It was a little difficult at first, because I mentioned I’m a TV producer by trade, doing some broadcast television stuff. I’m used to field directing and field producing and working with talent in the field, directing them and telling them what to do. And so I do that kind of thing when I’m behind the camera filming Renee. We would do take after take after take of certain things when we were doing a general open or close to the show. It could get a little frustrating for Renee, I think.

Renee Charlan Because I’d need about 25 takes before I know that I’ve gotten it out right. I don’t plan well in my head. It just kind of comes out, because I’m a talker. So to try to organize and memorize something, it just doesn’t work right. So he has to give me about 25-50 times. But then he has to go edit that, so that’s where he gets [unknown].

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter]

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter] And I imagine it’s not quite as easy to direct somebody who more than likely will get into that marriage mode and [Laughter] and be a little bit more stubborn in what they’re doing. [Laughter]

Nathan Charlan Yes.

Renee Charlan Right.

Nathan Charlan Well, I think we’ve come to a place now where we do very well with each other, filming each other if there’s little reality things we do with our family, [it comes?] easier.

Renee Charlan I really feel like it’s just a comfort thing. I think once you’re around the camera more, you become more comfortable. If you look at some of the behind-the-scenes or even the very first couple episodes with me, you can tell…Everyone who knows me well [says]: “You look like a different person” because I was so uncomfortable—

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter] Yeah.

Renee Charlan —being on camera, and I think you just kind of adjust. Then it’s just kind of there.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Nathan Charlan It brought you and I closer, I think, because we collaborate on ideas and…

Renee Charlan What are we supposed to talk about? All the time? Now we have something to talk about. [Laughter]

Tricia Kenney: I think it’s just wonderful that you’re both so involved, and that you found this common thing to work with and work towards. I think it’s wonderful. I think so many marriages, everybody’s doing their own thing and are not quite shure what the other person’s doing. [Chuckles] If one person’s really involved in the networking part of it, and all that stuff, the other person’s just out watching football or whatever. [Chuckles] And they’re not quite sure what you’re involved with every day.

This is such a good experience for the two of you, but I think it’s also great for your son. He gets to see you guys together in this collaboration, and I think it’s a really sweet family thing.

Renee Charlan Well, thank you. That’s really what we want to get across, too. We’ve gone through ups and downs with the difficult things we’ve had to go through with Zach, but really, that if you try to find a common goal. And that’s what we wanted to do with Zach, was try to find a way to make what has been given to us in this life, we would use that in good, and there really is a reason for it. We have no doubt that he is exactly how he is supposed to be. I got sick of being sad. I didn’t want to sit and be sad every day because I didn’t know what to do with him.

And I [spilled?] my frustrations on my blog on the site. I talk about it a lot—about what to do with him and what I get frustrated or confused about. But at least there’s this common goal that we both have and can come together on.

Tricia Kenney: Exactly. And it really changes the dynamics of the household as well, when you’re doing something positive. It affects the child so much, because instead of walking around the house crying all the time or being sad all the time, they’re seeing this spark. And it really helps anybody feel better. So I think it’s a really wonderful thing that you’re doing.

Renee Charlan Thank you so much.

Tricia Kenney: You’re welcome. And thank you for what you’re doing. We’re going to go ahead and wrap up the show now. Was there anything else you needed to add before we sign off?

Renee Charlan I think we’re good.

Tricia Kenney: Okay. Well, I really appreciate you both being on the show today. Wonderful thing that you’re doing, and I hope people tune in and start catching some of your episodes. It’s at Exceptional Family TV and check it out. It’s going to be some really good stuff on there, and more to come, I’m sure.

Sharon daVanport: Thank you both for being on here today. I really appreciate it.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. Yes, thank you. Thank you, Nathan.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. Have a safe trip back.

Nathan Charlan Okay.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. All right. Bye-bye.

Tricia Kenney: Bye-bye.

[Nathan and Renee hang up.]

Sharon daVanport: Okay. Thank you, Trish. Sorry I had to cut out there a few times. My allergies are really kicking my behind pretty good. [Laughter]

Tricia Kenney: Oh, that’s okay. They’re such a sweet family, and I just love what they’re doing.

Sharon daVanport: I know.

Tricia Kenney: We see this time and time again: people that get a diagnosis for themselves or their children. You could just go on and hide under a rock or something, but they step out and they start doing really wonderful things, and it gives them a direction in life that they never would’ve had. I think it’s really just a beautiful thing, what they’re doing.

Sharon daVanport: It really is. I hope people get over there and check out the Exceptional Family TV website, check out some of their episodes. I really hope they get some sponsors, and they’re able to continue doing more production blocks. The couple episodes that I’ve been able to catch are really good. Good high quality. The angle that they take&mdassh;like I said, they try to make a good balance of the positive and the challenging. To be real, but yet, be positive at the same time. So I think it’s really a good concept they’ve got going over there.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, definitely. Definitely.

Sharon daVanport: Okay, well, thank you very much, Tricia. Like I said, I’m really sorry I had to cut out on you a couple times. I [had the run of?] too much dead air there, when I had the [unknown], so I’m glad you were able to get into the switchboard today and help out. Thank you so much, and thank you again to Nathan and Renee for being our guests, and [we] look forward to hearing more from them and from Exceptional Family TV.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. And don’t forget to write to us at info AT autismwomensnetwork DOT org for the LifePROTEKT giveaway, so that you can get a GPS location device for your child or loved one, and also one year of service is included with that. And then we also have our b-Calm Sound giveaway as well, for those who are in the chat room today.

Sharon daVanport: That’s right. And for our next drawing is going to be on August 28. That’s a Saturday, as well, for the LifePROTEKT GPS device and we’re going to have as a radio guest that day Nadia Bloom and her mother, Tanya. So Tanya and Nadia Bloom. You might remember Nadia was the young girl who just about four months ago, she got lost in the swamp located in the woods near her family’s Florida home. Nadia survived four days, I believe that it was, and four nights.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah, in an area known to have alligators.

Tricia Kenney: They said there was like 12,000 alligators in that swamp area she was in.

Sharon daVanport: Oh! And I know that Tanya from the times that I’ve visited with her on the phone, she’s really happy to come on and set the record straight. She said there’s just so many misnomers and different stories out there that they just couldn’t respond to everything. They were pretty overwhelmed and just wanted to concentrate on getting Nadia well. She was pretty tore up from some bug bites and hadn’t eaten. So she had a lot of healing to do afterwards, and that was all they were concerned about. So she’s just really happy to come on.

Tricia Kenney: And Tanya had just given birth when that happened.

Sharon daVanport: That’s right. [Chuckles]

Tricia Kenney: She had a newborn baby at home, and was dealing with all this. So we’re very happy that she’s finding the time to come on the show with us and share this just absolutely incredible story.

Sharon daVanport: And she’s going to be announcing the winner of the LifePROTEKT device. We have not drawn for that yet, so you still have time to get in in the next couple weeks before the 28. You still have time to send your story over to us, and that’s all that’s required: just to send us an e-mail and let us know that you have a family member that would benefit from the location device. Your name will be put in for the drawing.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. I think we’re good to go, Tricia.

Tricia Kenney: All right.

Sharon daVanport: We’ll be back next Saturday—same place, same time.

Tricia Kenney: All right.

Sharon daVanport: Thank you very much, everyone.

Tricia Kenney: Bye-bye.

Sharon daVanport: Bye-bye.



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