New Monthly Mama Therapy Group for Central Illinois Caregivers

October 14th, 2021

Lace Mandrell and Bailey Imig pose and smile with their children

A DSCC mom and her friend started the Facebook group to connect with other parents of children with special needs

Thanks to an outing at a coffee shop, hearing aids and an impromptu conversation, two moms with children of similar ages and needs connected.

“I saw her daughter’s hearing aids. My son has them, too, so I just started talking to her,” Lace Mandrell said of her first meeting with Bailey McBurney Imig.

In no time Lace and Bailey were texting, talking and sharing tips, concerns and road trips to specialists.

Their immediate connection led to a new Facebook group called “Monthly Mama Therapy.”

Monthly Mama Therapy aims to help central Illinois caregivers of children with special needs connect with and support one another.

“If you’re trying to understand a diagnosis or therapy, running from appointment to appointment or saving for the next piece of equipment, things can be challenging,” said Lace “We just thought that having a network of moms with a wide range of experiences, ready to back you up on the good days and the bad days, would be amazing.”

Lace is the mother of two sons, Ollie and Auggie. Auggie, 3, is bilaterally deaf and has had cochlear implant surgery. He also has Chiari Malformation and was diagnosed with Waardenburg Syndrome.

“He’s a wild child who rarely stops moving,” Lace said. “He’s sweet, inquisitive and a little sponge excited about learning and soaking up everything around him.”

Auggie is a participant in the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC). He has been enrolled with DSCC since 2019.

Bailey McBurney Imig is also the mother of two: Paxton, 3, and Parker, 2 1/2. Parker is deaf and has undergone multiple screenings and tests. There is still no diagnosis for her other conditions.

“With all of the testing and so few answers, I feel like she’s probably that one in a million child who will have a diagnosis named after her,” Bailey said. “But, despite all her complications, Parker is a tiny, little bundle of joy who loves attention. She’s an easy-going cuddler who is almost always happy and smiling.”

During their first meeting, Lace and Bailey related to each other right away.

“We just hit it off and I’m so glad. With HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and concerns for privacy, it can make it hard to connect. Then COVID-19, online therapies and everything else got thrown in,” said Lace. “It’s hard to do this stuff alone. It can get really complicated and overwhelming.”

The more Bailey and Lace talked, the more they wanted other moms in the “same or similar boat” to have a safe space where their kids could connect and they could relax, share and recharge. The seed for Monthly Mama Therapy was planted.

Monthly Mama Therapy has a private Facebook page and hosts meet-ups at local parks, coffee shops and other venues in the Champaign and Bloomington areas. Conversations online and in-person may range from accessible parks and walking trails to experiences with therapies or the transition to school.

The group promotes “therapy” and the importance of caregivers taking care of their own needs, too.

“The online community is really growing. When someone asks a question, the support and responses have been great,” said Bailey. “Our ultimate goal is to build an in-person community that’s just as strong.”

Monthly Mama Therapy hopes to continue growing online and meeting in person when the weather turns cool at central Illinois locations where distancing is possible.

“Our wish list includes adding some veteran parents who are willing the help the ‘newbies’ navigate and prepare for the transitions ahead,” said Lace. “We’d also love to add activities like exercise or yoga to do together.”

For more information, visit the Monthly Mama Therapy Facebook page.