Blogging the Joys and Struggles of a Special-Needs Family

Ellen Seidman
Courtesy Ellen Seidman
Ellen Seidman with son Max

After graduating from Brandeis, Ellen Seidman ’89 was living a carefree life. She had landed a job in magazine publishing. She and her husband, David Smokler, went on cruises in Alaska and hiked in Patagonia. Even her first pregnancy, she says, was “textbook-perfect.” But the day after her son Max was born, he suddenly stopped breathing and had a series of seizures.

Doctors told Seidman and Smokler that Max had suffered a stroke, likely due to a lack of oxygen at some point during the C-section. “I knew elderly people sometimes had strokes, and people who smoked were at risk for a stroke,” says Seidman. “But a baby? I was so numb, I couldn’t even cry.”

The stroke left Max with cerebral palsy. At home with her son, Seidman often felt isolated. She didn’t know other parents who had children with disabilities.

In 2008, when Max was 6, Seidman — then a deputy editor at Glamour, hiring bloggers for its website — decided to create her own blog, Love That Max, as a way of connecting with and also inspiring families like hers. She says, “I’d been through the worst time in my life when Max was born, but soon enough I realized how amazing he was. I thought, Wouldn’t it be great to help other parents who are struggling?”

With humor and irreverence, Seidman shared her challenges (figuring out how to discipline a disabled child), triumphs (Max’s learning how to feed himself) and concerns (wondering what Max’s future would look like). The blog caught on. Soon Seidman, who today is editor-at-large at HGTV Magazine, was being asked to speak at conferences and share her writing on HuffPost.

She got a flood of feedback from families with disabled kids. “People would say, ‘Thank you. I feel less alone now,’” she says. In one blog post, Seidman wrote about connecting with other special-needs parents at her 25th Reunion at Brandeis: “I’d had the warm fuzzies all weekend — being around old friends completely reboots your spirits. But the insta-connection you have with other special-needs parents is its own kind of heartening.”

Since the blog’s launch, Love That Max has been featured on, and, and in The New York Times, Family Circle and Redbook. It was named one of Working Mother’s 25 Best Working Mom Blogs, Parenting magazine’s Top 50 Must-Read Mom Blogs and’s Top 100 Mom Blogs, among other honors.

The blog continues to chronicle the progress made by Max, now 16, who recently learned to open a car door by himself. “The inchstones are milestones,” Seidman says. In addition, the blog has evolved in its advocacy for the disability community. For instance, after Seidman created and posted a video that urged people to stop using the word “retard” — part of the Special Olympics’ Spread the Word to End the Word national campaign — the video was widely shared online, and CNN and other outlets picked up the story.

Seidman, who is also mom to Sabrina, 14, and Ben, 3, uses the blog to discuss in-the-news topics, such as Target’s featuring children with disabilities in its advertising and the social-media explosion that erupted after Dr. Phil dismissed interabled couples on his TV show. In one playful post, which went viral, she worked out how much money special-needs moms would earn if they were paid for all the jobs they do: $828,836 a year, by Seidman’s calculations.

Most of all, Seidman says, she wants to help people see “the ability in disability” and to understand the ways in which Max is more alike than different from everyone else. “He’s stubborn. He’s determined. He’s funny,” she says. “He’s a complex person, the same as anyone on this planet.”

— Heather Salerno