By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
bartesaghi@montclairlocal.news

Alma Schneider, a Montclair resident and licensed clinical social worker, has been advocating for more inclusion for children with disabilities for several years. 

The Montclair Friday Group she has hosted for 11 years provides support for families who have children with disabilities. It’s been a resource for families seeking not only emotional support, but advice on how to navigate the school system, access to playgrounds and other resources. 

While visiting her son in college in Chicago, Schneider met with her longtime friend Iris Mehler, a certified rehabilitation counselor and former Bloomfield resident who now lives in Michigan. They decided to meet and create a new resource to families,2 Moms No Fluff,” a podcast and video series in which Schneider and Mehler talk about the joys and pains of being a parent of a child with disabilities.

The first video in the ongoing series was posted to YouTube Jan. 1 and the audio can be found on several podcast services, including Google Podcasts, Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Episodes and updates are on Facebook as well at Facebook.com/2MomsNoFluff.

“I have this Friday Group, [Mehler] has her communities that she speaks to, but with the advent of podcasts and everyone doing everything from home on the computer, let’s bring our knowledge and our activism and our support for one another to a much bigger audience,” Schneider said. “But also, a serious goal of ours is to engage the typical community so that they can understand what it’s like for parents of children with disabilities.” 

Schneider said she hopes the podcast will also reach people who hold or seek public offices in various towns.

“We just want people to know that we’re here, that it’s important that our family’s needs are met and that we’re included,” Schneider said. “And that our children can make friends and have successful happy lives.” 

Schneider said the podcast will show the honest truth about raising a child with disabilities.

“We’re disclosing our personal joys and our personal challenges and pain in the hopes that people will hear us and changes will be made,” Schneider said. “And that everyone can be safe, happy and successful and properly educated.” 

Mehler said the podcast is very personal. She said in the episodes, she and Schneider are moving away from giving professional advice as a clinical social worker and rehabilitation counselor, and focusing on their own stories. It reflects “the true kind of raw honesty of mothers that are going through the daily struggles of our lives and what it entails. And of course, all the good and the happy things that come as a result of our very unique parenting journey,” she said.

Schneider said in discussing the difficulties of raising a child with a disability, she and her cohost aren’t placing blame – especially on the children themselves – but seeking to explain what the experience feels like. She said much of the pain they’ve experienced comes from living in a society that makes them feel “othered.” 

“And that’s a term that’s been thrown around a lot,” Schneider said “We are made to feel different and lesser than, or invisible, not because of our children or our families, but because of society.” 

In an interview in January, Mehler said she and Schneider had recorded 16 episodes by that point; as of this week, seven had been published. In one of the episodes, Mehler said, they discuss the beginning of a family’s journey after a child is newly diagnosed. She said they won’t sugarcoat the experience. 

“It’s like someone took their future dreams and kind of shredded them into pieces in front of them,” Mehler said. “It’s very hard to find places where people honestly share how that feels like. And this is just one example. And I think this gives a lot of power and takes a lot of people out of that very lonely spot.” 

Another episode, titled “Silver Linings” describes the wonderful things that come out of having children with disabilities. (“Actually, it can be called a gold or even platinum lining,” the episode description states).

Though Schneider and Mehler are focusing on personal stories, they’ll at times provide tips to families with experiences similar to their own. 

“What can you do, what can the general community do to make a point to consciously change things and to change society’s behavior?” Schneider said.

She said a lot of pain comes from feeling “My gosh, this wasn’t supposed to happen to us. It’s terrible to have a child with a disability.”

“The truth is it’s not so terrible,” Schneider said. “Children with disabilities are not always a terrible burden.”