Meet Jill, an advocate for families with neurodiverse children. From studying psychology to becoming a nurse at Johns Hopkins University, Jill also established the Connector position for neurodiverse families. Discover her insights, successful initiatives and personal experiences in supporting these families. Dive into the interview for an inspiring look at her impactful work.
Tell us about yourself:
I was born and raised in Potomac, Maryland. I went to undergraduate at American University in Washington DC and studied psychology. After college I had a few different jobs (outdoor education teacher in California, waitress and working with adults with chronic mental illness) and through all of these experiences I decided that I wanted to work in the medical field. I went back to school at Johns Hopkins University and got my degree in nursing. I have been in Baltimore ever since! I met my husband Jeremy here. We now live in Pikesville and have 2 kids, a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. We also have a 14-year-old puggle dog named Simba.
Can you share the inspiration behind creating the Connector position for families with neurodiverse children and other special needs, and what motivated you to initiate this role?
As the parent of a young neurodiverse child, I remember going to events in the community and loving them but feeling like they were all designed for neurotypical children. I wanted to create a space where parents could bring their children to activities where there was no judgment or expectations placed on the children.
As a registered nurse and nurse administrator, how do you leverage your professional background to support families with special needs?
As a former hospital nurse and a current school nurse, I have lots of experience working with children and families with special needs. I have seen first-hand the extra energy and resources that it takes to have a child with any special needs. I like to be able to be a resource for these families and help connect them with community resources and support so that their journey can be easier.
How do you approach creating events that are inclusive and welcoming to everyone, and can you share some examples of successful initiatives or programs you have organized?
With my programming, my main goal is for everyone to feel accepted and enjoy the activity and that it is accessible to everyone. One of my favorite places in Baltimore is “We Rock the Spectrum” in Owings Mills. It is a sensory gym that has all kinds of activities and equipment there. They have swings, trampolines, slides and even a calming room. I like bringing groups from the community here because there is something for every child to do depending on what their sensory needs are at the time.
What personal experiences have shaped your understanding of the needs and challenges faced by families with neurodiverse children?
I have a nephew who has severe medical challenges. I have seen the struggles that he has faced and that my sister and brother-in-law have faced. Through our experience, I understand that some children process things differently, so what may work for one child will not work for all children.
How do you balance your professional life with your family life? What do you do to take some time for yourself?
One of the major reasons why I left hospital nursing was because it did not allow me the work-life balance that I was looking for as a mom. While I love my job and being a nurse, my children always come first when they need me. That is non-negotiable. Working as a school nurse, I am off on all holidays and have lots of breaks. It’s definitely a puzzle trying to juggle 2 kids, work and taking time for myself but I try to get creative to be able to be my best self for everyone.
I love to run when I have downtime. I like to just be alone with my music and enjoy the outdoors. I find it very meditative. I also love being with friends and family. I just started a podcast too with 3 of my best mom friends called “Kvetch and Co”. We talk about the joys and challenges of balancing motherhood and work. Check us out if you need a good laugh!