Meet Your Neighbors - Mother's Day Edition!

Community Spotlight - Meet a new neighbor each month!

By Nicole Melville May 9, 2024

One of the things that I love most about Macaroni KID Prescott is that it gives me the opportunity to get out in the community and meet new people. Each month we will spotlight someone in the community so you get these amazing opportunities, too! Follow along on Facebook for your chance to vote on who we interview next!  

For our very first edition, I am honored to spotlight my fabulous friend, Kahley McFadden! Kahley and I met as next door neighbors years ago. I saved her from a scorpion and the rest is history! Although we weren't neighbors for long, I have followed along on her journey as a busy wife, mom and business owner and she truly exemplifies unwavering love, perseverance, and grace in everything she does. Allow me to introduce you...

What is your name?

Kahley McFadden

Can you share with us a little about your family and your motherhood journey?

My experience as a mother has been completely different from what I imagined, but incredibly rewarding. I have an amazing husband, Matt, and we have been together for 16 years. He is a firefighter for Central Arizona Fire and Medical (CAFMA) and an amazing father. We have been truly blessed with two wonderful daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 4 years old. My oldest daughter is neurotypical, while my youngest daughter is neurodivergent. It never occurred to me that I would become a special needs mom. My youngest daughter was born prematurely and immediately displayed signs of feeding difficulties. She had an NG tube inserted at two weeks old and underwent surgery to have a g-tube placed when she was 3 months old. 

Doctors closely monitored her due to her feeding issues, but they also noticed that she was not reaching her developmental milestones. At 18 months old, she was diagnosed with Autism, and it was truly the best thing that could have happened to us. I know it may sound unusual for a parent to be excited about an autism diagnosis, but I was overjoyed. When my daughter was struggling with feeding issues, the state did not recognize her health challenges. However, once we received the autism diagnosis, everything changed for the better. We were able to access Arizona Long Term Care Services (ALTCS) and provide her with all the necessary therapies and services she needed to thrive.

After she turned three, we went through the district evaluation process, and she qualified for their special needs preschool. Unfortunately, the accommodation provided was not sufficient for her to truly thrive. We made the difficult decision to decline the placement offer and began searching for alternative preschools that could better meet her needs. 

It became clear quite quickly that there were no suitable alternatives available. While there are many schools for Autism, none addressed her complex feeding difficulties. Most schools lacked the necessary staff, and the others viewed her as a liability. All the ups and downs of being a mom and all the exciting adventures I've had along the way have brought us to our new home in Prescott, AZ.

After extensive discussions and research, I concluded that creating a private school tailored to her needs, as well as other children like her, was the best course of action. We determined that Prescott, AZ would be the ideal location for this new school. As a result, we made the decision to relocate our family back to our hometown and embark on this new journey and this Mother’s Day will be my first one since moving back to Prescott last August 2023.

How do you balance the responsibilities of being a special needs mother and business owner?

Balancing spreadsheets and sensory diets, meetings, and meltdowns - as a business owner and a special needs parent, I wear many hats. Sometimes literally because my daughter has a thing for hats, ha ha! 

But honestly, there are three principles that I swear by to maintain a healthy equilibrium between running a business and being a mom. First, I realized as a mom and business owner the importance of setting clear boundaries between work and family. I make it a point to have specific work hours and dedicated family time, so that my laptop doesn't end up feeling like a permanent part of our family. This is much easier said than done. 

Second, build a support system for both roles. Last year, my family made the decision to move back to the Prescott area. When we were in Phoenix, we felt isolated, and my husband's demanding job as a firefighter in Prescott meant he would work long shifts of 24-48 hours at a time. It was a challenging situation as we had no family close-by to rely on during emergencies or even for emotional support. However, now that we are back in Prescott, surrounded by our loved ones and friends, life has become much more enjoyable and less stressful. You can't do it all alone, even if you have superhero tendencies. Surround yourself with a league of extraordinary friends, family, and fellow special needs parents and business owners who have your back.

Third, seek personal fulfillment outside of work and parenting. While being a dedicated business owner and mother is fulfilling, it's equally essential to seek personal fulfillment outside of these roles. Whether it's pursuing a passion project, engaging in a hobby, or spending time with friends, nurturing your own identity outside of work and parenting can bring a sense of balance and joy to your life. My joy just happens to be spending too much money on holiday décor, ha ha!

What are some of the unique challenges you face as a special needs mom?

Raising a disabled child requires a sort of hyper-vigilance. The stakes are so high and there’s really no end in sight. There are countless battles and obstacles that take place behind closed doors that many are unaware of. 

  1. Isolation is probably the biggest challenge. I don’t want to be isolated, yet sometimes because of my children’s needs we find ourselves alone. 
  2. Guilt is another big one. Deep down I often wonder, could I do more? Could I try harder?  Am I really doing all I can do? Sometimes, I have an overwhelming feeling of failing at everything I do because I don’t have enough time or energy to do it all. 
  3. Cheating my typical children. At times, I feel like I’m cheating my typical children from having a normal childhood experience. I feel torn, and I fear that my typical children will feel less important or forgotten.
  4. Overthinking the future. I worry about the unknown, what the future holds. What will happen to my daughter when we are not around? will she ever be able to be on her own? 

I hope these help another special needs parent understand that if you have had these feelings, it’s okay and completely normal. P.S. You're an amazing mom!

How do you practice self-care and ensure your own well-being amidst the demands of your family and work life?

Make it a priority. Do the "self-care" thing, including forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others and move on with a lesson learned. Take advantage of the five-minute self-care options available. Pour yourself a cup of tea, read a couple of pages from your favorite book, give a friend a call... engage in something you love, no matter how small. You would be surprised what a small break will do for the soul.

What advice would you give to mothers who may be in similar roles or facing similar challenges?

Motherhood is a journey like no other. It’s a confusing mix of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Some days, I feel like a superhero, nailing everything, while other days, I get frustrated with my lack of patience or not being fully present for my loved ones. But it's important to remember that we're only human. And for all the amazing moms out there with special needs children, I'd like to offer some advice I wish I had known sooner... 

  • Read. Learn as much as you can about your child's condition. This will help you understand their world much better, set the right limits and goals, and advocate for them with confidence. But I get it, finding the time to read and the access to the books can be hard sometimes. I also listen to videos (TED, youtube) on my cellphone while driving and take five minutes here and there to read a short article or check my social media support groups. Stay informed and on top of things.
  • Take no-thank-you-bites. Don't be afraid to try new things but be ready to quit if needed. We pressure our kids to not be quitters, but sometimes quitting is not just ok, it is necessary. In a family outing or vacation, the ideal situation is to quit just one minute before they hit the sensory overload, meltdown stage. Sometimes is better to try to avoid the situation all together, but sometimes it is good to push your child just a little bit out of their comfort zone.
  • Make your partner a true partner. I think this is actually from "Lean In" but it applies here just as well. My husband knows when I am my wits' end and he takes over, and the other way around. In a family outing, a trip to Target or the park, we split the work like "I'll keep an eye on kid number one, you watch kid number two". The buddy system works. We can both read the signs telling us when it's time to quit because we have gone down this path together. Communication is key.

and the BEST advice I can give...

  • Find those other parents. As a mom of children with invisible disabilities I've gotten a lot of eye-rolling and shocked expressions from other parents. You don't need those people around you, but those other parents... the parents of neurotypical children who think that your kid is awesome, those are the ones you need in your life. The mom who says, "I think she is so polite and smart, and you guys are doing an amazing job” and you know she is being honest or the dad who sees your son trotting through the house on his hands and feet and says "Wow! That is so awesome! He is so good at doing THAT!". In a two-hour play date, these people see your child's strengths so much more than their challenges and you need those comments because when you have been there all day, day after day, in the midst of it you may lose that perspective. Those parents and their kids are invaluable.

In what ways do you find strength and support in your community?

The Prescott community has so much to offer the people who live here, which is why we made the decision to move back. Prescott provides that small town charm along with a diverse population and community. I've noticed a thriving homeschooling community in Prescott, offering various alternative learning opportunities and co-ops. There are numerous classes and activities available for children of all ages. 

It was important to me to find a community where my children can learn and where I can connect with their friends and their families. Often, we just send our kids to school without truly knowing anything about their friends or backgrounds. Being a part of this community allows me to find support from other parents who are actively involved in their children's education.

Being back in Prescott, engaging with nature and exploring the outdoors, has brought my family closer together in an incredible way. Through our outdoor adventures, we've connected with other wonderful families who are now an integral part of our lives. Additionally, we've actively participated in neighborhood events and community outreach programs, finding joy in giving back to our community. 

It's heartwarming to see familiar faces at church, homeschooling events, and even during late-night walks. The relaxed and purposeful vibe in Prescott is a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the valley. Surrounding myself and my family with individuals who are passionate about being part of and contributing to the community brings me immense joy. I am thrilled to call Prescott home once again.

What are your favorite spots to take your kids around town?

I'm constantly on the hunt for cool and exciting places to bring my little ones and blow off some steam. With homeschooling in full swing (until our secret school lair is ready), we've discovered just how much free time we have on our hands (and it's been a blast hanging out with my mini-me's). Here are my ultimate choices for the greatest hangouts in town to entertain your munchkins. The options are endless!

  1. Arizona Dream Gymnastics - Prescott Valley, AZ - This gym is like a magical land for homeschool kids every Wednesday from 2pm to 3pm. It's the perfect chance to swing by and have a blast! It's just $7 per child, which is basically a steal. They also have an open gym for all kiddos on Saturdays and a ridiculously fun tot time.
  2. Lessons by Lexe - Prescott, AZ - This spot is absolutely our top pick. My kiddos go to dance lessons here, and they love joining in on dance camps and unique classes. Ms. Lexe isn't just an awesome dance instructor, she's also Miss Maricopa. She's got a heart of gold and does a lot for the community. My little one is crazy about her dance class, and Ms. Lexe is amazing with dancers who have special needs.
  3. Honeybees Adventure Time - Prescott, AZ - If you're homeschooling and in need of some social activities, look no further than Honeybee's Adventure Time! Honeybee's is not just your ordinary microschool, she's got some pretty unique outdoor clubs, too! It's the perfect place to be, especially during the summer. My girls are already bugging me about when they can hang out with Honeybee again. They absolutely love her Wednesday fishing club. The best part is, you don't even need to know how to fish because she has all of the gear and she'll teach you! But hey, if you're a pro fisherman, you can bring your own stuff too. On top of that, she's got this amazing club called "Forest Fridays" where every Friday in the summer is spent exploring a different spot and having all sorts of outdoor adventures. The kids can have a blast bouncing on giant water trampolines and paddling in kayaks. And guess what? She's got life jackets and all the essentials covered, so you don't have to worry about buying anything. And here's the best part: if you're not ready to commit to a monthly thing, she's got a drop-in rate. Normally, it's for kids aged 5 and up, but even the little ones can come along as long as they've got someone with them. This was perfect for me because I could bring both my 8-year-old and my 4-year-old. So, what are you waiting for? Get ready for some adventure with Honeybee!
  4. Mortimer Farms - Season Pass - Dewey, AZ - Mortimer Farms is famous for their mind-blowing Halloween shenanigans, but did you know about their magical season pass? If you're anything like us, my little munchkins absolutely go bananas for plucking fruits and veggies, having a blast on the slides and zipline, and joining the Watermelon/Sweet Corn Festival. And guess what? With the season pass, you can relish all of these activities for free! Of course, the bigger events still require an extra fee on top of the season pass, but everything else is bundled in. Most of the time, we just goof around and feed the cutie-patootie goats. It's totally worth the splurge, and my kiddos feel like they own their very own farm, ha ha!
  5. YMCA - Drop in Swimming - Prescott, AZ -  I have to confess, I'm not exactly a gym rat, so splurging on a YMCA membership seems a bit unnecessary. But hey, who can resist a pool and now a waterslide? My girls go crazy for our "waterpark" visits to the YMCA - my 4-year-old even thinks it's the real deal! They charge $15 for adults, which covers one child entry too. No hidden fees, so you can splash around whenever you feel like it. Just keep an eye on the website for any changes in Open Swim times before you make a splash!
  6. McFadden Manor - Prescott, AZ - Coming Soon! Get ready for some awesome classes that I'm putting together! They're going to be a blast, full of learning and creativity. I'm ironing out all of the details, but trust me, there is going to be something for everyone - young and old! From mommy/tot outdoor playtime to toddler music/sing-along classes, sensory bin fun, arts and crafts, micro farm therapy, and a whole lot more. Keep an eye on my social media (especially Instagram) to be the first in line for class sign-ups!

How can the community connect with you?

There are countless ways to reach out to me, but I'll drop my email and social media info below. We relocated to this neighborhood with the sole purpose of launching our private school (set to open in August 2025) and to mingle with other families who share our values. If you're in search of playdates, momdates, family dates, or any dates, let's link up! Making friends as an adult can be tough, but it doesn't have to be. Reach out and let the friendships and summer BBQs begin!





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