Raising children who have autism isn’t easy—just ask pals Brenda Popritkin and Kristi Vannatta. The two South Floridian women (Vannatta lives in Jupiter; Popritkin resides in Fort Lauderdale) are both moms to children with the developmental disorder and have struggled with the hardships that come along with raising kids on the spectrum. Together, they have found a way to use their experiences to help other parents in the same situation: by co-hosting a podcast.
Disorderly Blondes details their personal daily lives, parenting autistic children while “balancing heels, cocktails, and meltdowns.” While it is a serious subject matter, they try to keep things lighthearted; the episodes are usually told in comedic snippets, as they dive deep to discuss challenges and offer advice for parents.
The ladies’ friendship blossomed from an interesting turn of events. Popritkin recalls going through a hard time a decade ago when her son Dylan, now 18, had just been diagnosed with autism. Every time she picked him up at carpool, she’d park behind another mom who she imagined had her life in order. “Every day, I would look at her and think, ‘Wow, she’s so perfect, she has the perfect life,’ and here I am all boo-hoo,” says Popritkin, who has a second son, Oliver, 11, with CHRNA7, a rare genetic condition.
A month later, Popritkin’s husband crossed paths with a nurse who offered to make an introduction to another family dealing with autism. Says Popritkin: “I showed up at her house and my jaw dropped. It was the woman from carpool!” The two became fast friends. “We really gel creatively,” says Vannatta, the mother of J.R., 16, who has autism, and Jaxon, 13.
The idea to create a podcast stemmed from an interview Popritkin did for a Spanish television station about autism in the community. It made her realize there wasn’t enough helpful information readily available on the subject. “A lot of stuff out there is a little gun-shy of the reality that can happen with parents,” she says.
Vannatta notes that doing a podcast was their opportunity to fix that problem. “We wanted to do our take—us, uncensored,” she says. Adds Popritkin: “Kristi and I don’t hold back. We share everything.”
Disorderly Blondes is available on all major platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music, as well as YouTube. Currently in production on season three, Popritkin and Vannatta alternate between hosting guests and keeping the banter between themselves. They have welcomed therapists, advocates, and even the principal of Jupiter-based Els Center of Excellence, where Vannatta’s son attends The Learning Academy.
Popritkin says the most rewarding part of hosting the podcast is when they receive direct feedback. She recalls one instance: “I was talking about how I can’t cry in certain moments because I have my other child, and life has to go on, so I have to cry later.” A listener messaged to say she too has waited to cry. “Little things like that make it more rewarding, just knowing we’re being there for other parents, so they don’t feel alone.”