Vivian Kahn Adler is a speech pathologist who specializes in pediatric feeding disorders. After losing her daughter in 1989 to a rare genetic disorder, Vivian was encouraged by well-meaning friends to shift away from working with children with special needs. Instead, Vivian leaned in, realizing that helping these children was her “raison d’etre.”
While the relationships Vivian builds with her tiny patients is critical, it’s the connection and collaboration that she forges with the children’s parents that creates a thriving environment for growth. Vivian helped Kathleen and her husband when their son, Peter, who is now 13 years old, had severe eating issues as a baby. We discuss the stress of not being able to feed your child, and how that anxiety can be imparted onto our kids. We explore Vivian’s work, the difference between feeding issues and “picky eating,” and how Vivian helps children learn to love food. Vivian reminds us of the importance of not judging someone if you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.
We talk about the loneliness many of her families experience when it seems that nobody else can understand what they are going through. Though not part of her job description, Vivian believes that an important part of her job is to help her families realize that they are not alone; that they share a common cause. Vivian’s daughter was diagnosed with Familial Dysautonomia in the 1980s, when genetic research was only just emerging and there was no online community to provide support. Once her daughter was diagnosed at the age of 3, Vivian immediately sought to connect with other families who were going through the same experience. She and her husband were able to connect with other families and become active in the Familial Dysautonomia Foundation.
Vivian talks about showing up for others who are going through loss and how she lives a life of gratitude. And, as we all aspire to, Vivian loves her work. She tells us how it brings her strength and happiness. If you’ve ever wondered whether you should send a thank you note to someone who has touched your life in some way, Vivian is one of those people who keeps every thank you note from the families she works with. She looks at them when she’s feeling down or times are tough. “In the end, it’s the people that you meet, the people that you love, the people that you’ve worked with. . . that are the bricks in my wall in my building of gratitude that keeps me safe and feeling great in this world.”
Episode Links and Resources:
Feeding Matters: https://www.feedingmatters.org/
Familial Dysautonomia Foundation, Inc.: https://familialdysautonomia.org/