(Susanna Peace Lovell : Speaker, Writer, Coach, Advocate!)
I have enjoyed, so much, speaking about my experiences, sharing resources, uplifting my community with stories I have lived through .. it is truly a blessing to LIVE such a rich life of fulfillment and purpose.
I’m looking forward to engaging with more of you in 2018. Here is my official announcement on my 2018 speaking topics. Note : customized talks, workshops and seminars are also available.
Susanna Peace Lovell is a certified professional life coach and advocate dedicated to the health and wellness of special needs families everywhere. Her own daughter, Arizona, has multiple challenges and diagnoses, including autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and food allergies. On her journey of navigating through the worry and heartbreak of raising a special needs child of her own, Susanna found her true life calling : to help other parents find and realize joy and passion in their own lives. It is a gift to realize that your child’s potential doesn’t have a limit; but to realize YOUR possibilities are also unlimited is a tremendous breakthrough not to be missed! Susanna can help you unleash this potential within and start soaring in your own lives.
Susanna is currently booking for speaking engagements and panels in 2018. She has presented to universities, schools, Fortune 500 firms, special needs organizations, mom groups, health & wellness forums and more. Based in Los Angeles, Susanna is available for both local and nationwide bookings. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for rates & availability.
Knowing Your Rights in California
What are your child’s rights and what resources are available to them and you? Susanna Peace Lovell will help you understand your needs as you navigate through the world of being a special needs family. The state, school district and even private support systems (including schools, therapeutic services and other interventions) can be covered, 100%, when processed through the correct channels.
My Top 7 Tips for Self Care as a Special Needs Parent
Self care has been at the forefront of Susanna Peace Lovell’s journey as a special needs parent. She shares the top 7 tips that have helped her along the way : 1) Speak Your Truth, 2) Just Say No, 3) Release the Guilt, 4) Receive Help, 5) Let Go of Expectations, 6) Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable and 7) Finding Your Joy. What are the ways in which both YOU and your child / children can thrive?
A is for Arizona
Susanna Peace Lovell shares her journey in raising her now 11 year old daughter, Arizona, and her navigation through the worries and heartbreak of understanding the various diagnoses her daughter was given along the way : allergies, asthma, auditory processing disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety and more. Noticing that all of Arizona’s diagnoses happened to start with the letter A, Susanna had an epiphany : these “labels” didn’t define her daughter. A is for the perfect, whole & complete Arizona.
Conscious Uncoupling & Harmonious Co-Parenting
A staggering 75% of special needs families end in divorce, and the reason why that number isn’t higher is because it is so expensive to manage multiple households when funds are largely allocated toward your child’s needs. Having a child with special needs is stressful on a marriage, and it requires a conscious and specific path, from both parties, to navigate through life together. As a divorcee who tried to keep her marriage intact, Susanna Peace Lovell had to make conscious choices about moving through life, effectively and intentionally, with her ex-husband – keeping their daughter’s interests at heart. Susanna speaks about the power we have within to make CHOICES for a better life.
(Throwback photo to my 5 year old cutie, just because)
I was gutted to tears when I read a recent New York Times article about a 3 year old boy who died after being (irresponsibly) given a grilled cheese sandwich at preschool. He was severely allergic to dairy and died from anaphylactic shock.
Aside from the glaring reality that food allergies can be LIFE THREATENING, I am feeling validated in my inflexibility when it comes to protecting my child from adverse reactions to food.
On that note, here are the top 5 ways I help support my child in living a thriving life, despite her allergies & restrictions around food :
- SELF ADVOCACY :
- I have drilled into Arizona’s head, over and over, the seriousness of eating foods that are “not good for her body.” She knows, now, to ask me every single time if she can eat something she’s unfamiliar with. Although processed foods are few and far between in her diet; there are occasions where she has to read through a list of ingredients to determine whether she can partake of a certain food. She feels empowered by being part of the process.
- EDUCATION :
- It is my job as a parent advocate to enlighten everyone about Arizona’s food allergies including possibilities and risk for cross contamination. I write notes to Arizona’s therapists, spend time talking to her classmates about the importance of food allergy awareness, talk to my friends & family about the importance of keeping Arizona’s contact to allergens at a minimum, prep visits to other’s homes ahead of time, bring Arizona friendly snacks everywhere we go and make sure she has her own set of cookware & utensils for food preparation when we make trips out of town.
- THE IMPORTANCE OF HAND WASHING :
- One of the most important interventions for avoiding allergic reactions to foods : hand washing! When you are in a household or proximity of someone who has reactions to certain foods, washing hands after touching allergens can be highly effective. I had to teach my friends and family to wash their hands thoroughly after touching cheese, cracking open eggs and popping nut snacks into their mouth.
- DIET POWER :
- It’s not so fun to be told, all the time, about the things you CAN’T eat. So, I try to empower Arizona with all of the fun benefits to her healthy eating options. Understanding how certain foods can make Arizona’s body stronger, more focused and boost her mood make eating them even more compelling.
- FOOD IS MEDICINE :
- Lastly, and most importantly, food is medicine. Our bodies, regardless of allergies or intolerances, will thrive when we are putting the healthiest options in them. I practice eating healthy foods for my body as a model for Arizona to witness. We talk about living long and healthy lives together!
(Fun + Friends : Halloween 2016)
I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween and don’t have a particular attachment to the holiday, but since it is Arizona’s FAVORITE celebration of the year, I have a few tips to share on how to make it a safe and memorable one for her.
- Make A Plan – As with most children in general and certainly those on the Autism Spectrum, having a plan for the day / evening (including a visual schedule and trying on costumes ahead of time) can make all the difference for a smooth experience.
- Keep It Simple – No need to over plan, a simple schedule is usually the most effective. Usually, we make a plan to walk a few blocks around the neighborhood with a friend or two (familiar faces and relationships are comforting). Overstimulation is a real thing and Halloween includes possibilities for sensory overload in all areas. Limiting your “celebration” time can help offset any meltdowns due to sensory dysfunction.
- Plan for Sugar / Treats – Arizona is allergic to 90% of the treats passed out on Halloween. I blogged about The Teal Pumpkin Project last year, as an alternative to passing out candy and food goodies. It is an easy way to allow for children with allergies to feel successful in their trick or treating efforts.
- Practice Social Skills – Because of Arizona’s allergy to most candies, we have focused on Trick or Treating as a way to walk and talk with friends, ring neighbors’ doorbells and make a connection with them (look with your eyes) and have a script : “Trick or Treat!” Typically, additional conversation will ensue, with Arizona engaging in questions such as, “Tell me about your costume!” “What are your favorite candies?” “Are you having fun?” Social Thinking is a huge part of Arizona’s therapeutic plan these days. Knowing when to start and end conversations including staying on topic is a fun practice while walking the neighborhood.
Whatever your plans for the day (perhaps an LA Dodgers win for World Series Game # 6??), enjoy each minute and be safe!
I would love to hear from you : please share any additional hints and tips for making the day a successful one!
(RCAP Founder Dr. Mimi Nartey, Attorney Georgianna Junco-Kelman and Me)
Meet the Panelists on Parenting the Special Needs Child
Four tenacious, motivational and engaged special needs Moms rounded out the panel and inspired the audience with their vulnerability, authenticity and shareable wisdom in raising their children. The event was Parenting the Special Needs child, presented by RCAP.
Susanna Peace Lovell is a UC Berkeley graduate and a certified professional life coach and advocate dedicated to the health and wellness of special needs families everywhere. Her own daughter, Arizona, has multiple challenges and diagnoses, including autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and food allergies.
In addition to coaching individual clients and families, Susanna also sits on the board of directors of Cheerful Helpers Child & Family Study Center, consults on various projects as a subject matter expert for autism and special needs parenting, and is working on her first memoir. She blogs about her life and experiences at www.susannapeacelovell.com.
Georgianna Junco-Kelman is the principal and managing attorney at The Law Offices of Georgianna Junco-Kelman. Ms. Kelman was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States at the age of 9 years old. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with an emphasis in Public Law, from the University of California at Los Angeles, graduating with Departmental Honors. She earned her Juris Doctorate at the Whittier College of Law in Los Angeles, California.
Ms. Kelman’s personal journey with her first child, Brandon, born in 2002 with a physically and developmentally impacting brain deformity, ultimately brought her to the path of special education law. Inspired by her own experiences with her little boy, and after meeting countless families desperately in need of support navigating the very daunting and tumultuous waters of the special education system, Ms. Kelman immersed herself in special education law, ultimately founded the Law Offices of Georgianna Junco-Kelman in 2008, exclusively dedicated to the representation of students with disabilities.
Karen M. Park, a Principal at Bernstein Private Wealth Management, provides investment planning and investment management services to high net worth individuals, families and foundations. She has particular expertise in the area of planning for special needs children and is the co-author of Bernstein’s whitepaper on special needs planning.
Karen is the mother to three beautiful boys, including one who has complex special needs (http://milosjourney.com/). She is an advocate with a passion for AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) and PODD (Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display). Karen is also a pioneer in the advocacy of undiagnosed disorders, and is an Advisor to MyGene2.org.
Karen earned a BA, magna cum laude, in Social Studies from Harvard University in 1993 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997.
Jillian Lauren is a writer, storyteller, mom, rock-wife, and Los Angeleno, by way of Jersey. She’s the New York Times bestselling author of the memoirs EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED, and SOME GIRLS: My Life in a Harem, and the novel PRETTY. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, and Elle, among others. She is a regular storyteller on The Moth and blogs at jillianlauren.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.
The event was supported by several corporate sponsors interested in special needs advocacy, including:
Rejuvenation Center (Medical Day Spa)
Double Ivy Tutoring
Enrico Cuini (Fine Italian Footwear)
Christine Hayworth (Personal Styling)
Food 2 Die For (Catering)
Charles & Company (Fine Teas)
Merryland Dance Studio
(Suzi Lula, Dr. Shefali & Me!)
I first saw Dr. Shefali speak about conscious parenting on Oprah years ago and have been a dedicated follower of her message since. I attended her first EVOLVE conference in 2015, watched her take the stage LIVE @ Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions at UCLA’s Royce Hall, attended an intimate one day conference with her in Beverly Hills and have recommended her books and workshops to tons of friends and colleagues.
This weekend, the 3rd annual EVOLVE conference is taking place in Long Beach and I will be attending once again. I am looking forward to an amazing line up of speakers and to be surrounded by likeminded parents searching for a deeper and more meaningful connection with their children.
It has always resonated with me, Dr. Shefali’s message about our children having their own heartbeat : certainly, they have not come into this world to be raised as our MINI MEs. When we remove the ego from our parenting, we are opening ourselves up to a world of honoring, loving and cherishing these little souls to SHOW UP exactly as they are!
This morning, as Arizona and I were rushing out the door for our daily morning walk to school, I tripped and fell (hard) on my side. The fall was so impactful that I had to cancel our walk and drive us to school instead. My daughter was NOT happy about this change and let me know (loudly and repeatedly) how I had ruined her day. My role as her punching bag continued as we walked on to campus. I handed her off to her aide and teacher, unaffected by her biting words. “You don’t like change, Arizona, I know this about you. And, my fall was unexpected. I really wanted to walk to school today too.” She didn’t want to hear me, and kept perseverating on my clumsiness and how everything was always my fault. I gave her a hug and kiss (as she pushed me away) and told her to find joy in the day.
In earlier years, I would have been so flustered by her behavior. I reacted to everything and took her unbecoming words and actions so personally. But today, I am more easily able to detach myself from these outward displays. Yes, I will continue to guide and nurture my child and I will always honor her expression of self.
I can’t wait to share about more teachings from this upcoming weekend! And for those of you in Southern California, there are still a few seats available : join me!
(Walking to School)
Exercise has always been therapeutic to me. The benefits to my physical health have always been welcome, but the mood-boosting effects motivate me to keep a consistent routine.
Mostly I take a barre class, but sometimes I swim or find myself in a hip hop class at a nearby dance studio. When I’m particularly energetic and have a girlfriend with me for support, I’ll do a couple rounds of the Culver City stairs. I always feel lifted and inspired after I get my body moving a bit.
Movement is also important for Arizona. Having her run around and “get her energy” out has always been extremely regulating to her. In school, she often gets movement breaks when she is having a hard time focusing.
Last week marked the first day of 4th grade. We made a plan to walk to school like we do every year on day one. And even though it is no more than a 12 minute walk, we never do it more than a handful of times during the year. I am always rushing off to dive into my day’s to do list. GO GO GO, is my comfortable speed.
This year felt different though; almost as if Arizona and I were both ready for something new. She seemed especially focused and enlivened after that brisk walk on the first day (and, had a great start in her new classroom). As an animal lover, she was excited to see folks in the neighborhood walking their various breeds of dogs. She felt proud at stop lights, looking both ways before crossing safely. In fact, we both enjoyed it so much that we have been walking to school every morning since. I love the hilly route to Arizona’s campus, and after dropping her off to her classroom, I continue through the neighborhood for another hour on my own. I feel my body getting stronger.
It’s been such a beautiful centering exercise for me, not rushing into my day trying to get as much work done as possible before school pick up. And while I’m walking, I am thinking of my intention(s) for the day and week ahead. I feel peaceful, breathing deeply as I walk, conscious of my heart working harder.
I find myself looking forward to the morning, when I can walk with my daughter to school. Sweetly, she has started wanting to hold my hand again. As a pre-pre-teen, this display of attachment and affection has largely disappeared. But she has learned that when she grabs my hand, I am pulling her up the hill behind me and we are propelled forward together.
I am grateful for my new morning routine. What’s your favorite way to start the day?
(Now streaming on Netflix)
I’m often skeptical when I hear about tv and film projects that include the characterization of an individual with special needs. Certainly, it’s more prevalent these days, to include a character who’s either a little “off” or even clearly identified as being on the autism spectrum. But when hearing about an entire series based with the main character being atypical (or neuro-diverse, as I like to call it), I had to hold my breath.
“Please let this work!” I thought, as I logged into Netflix yesterday. This is so huge for us, the autism community, to have a story line showcased on such a large mainstream platform.
So I started watching, episode after episode (there are 8 episodes total). And, I exhaled : it was so GOOD! So so good! My heart flipped and flopped watching the family dynamic play out so similarly to my own. I related so much to Mama Gardner (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and the fears and worries she has about her son. Oh, how beautiful it was to watch. The characters were believable, the issues and challenges the show brought up were so authentic and relevant. I cannot wait for more. Thank you, Robia Rashad, for creating and sharing such an important story line with us. Bravo, Netflix, for taking on this project.
Streaming now, only on Netflix, Atypical is a coming of age story that follows Sam (played by Keir Gilchrist), an 18-year-old on the spectrum as he searches for love and independence. While Sam is on his funny yet emotional journey of self-discovery, the rest of his family must grapple with change in their own lives as they all struggle with the central theme : what does it really mean to be normal?
(Speaking at Bernstein Global Wealth Management Firm in Century City, CA : Planning for Special Needs Families)
Last week, I had the honor to speak as a panelist on : Planning for Special Needs Families at Alliance Bernstein’s Los Angeles office.
I joined Jim Huyck, Consultant and Advocate, Karen Park, Principal at Bernstein and Andrea Ross, Vice President / Director at Bernstein who touched on important needs for families like mine : setting up a specific and structured special needs trust, utilizing the resources and government programs through the state / regional centers and also having a specialized financial plan in place to accommodate our child’s various needs.
I, on the other hand, talked about the importance of our own health and wellness, as special needs parents. I shared my story about raising Arizona and hitting rock bottom in my own life : suffering from depression, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of unhappiness. And then, one day, having the epiphany that my child didn’t need “fixing” – and neither did I.
Yes, we can be happy again. We can feel connected to our purpose. We can feel whole and complete. I am committed to living a thriving life with my child, no matter the circumstance.
And so it is!