First Hope starts new podcast to help families

“Inclusive Insights: Stories of Hope,” aims to create a sense of community for families with children who have unique abilities, and those who don’t.

Bethany Heinlein, Angel Alexander and Michelle Owen help to lead the podcast.
Bethany Heinlein, Angel Alexander and Michelle Owen help to lead the podcast.
Photo by Annabelle Sikes
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You just got a diagnosis for your child with unique abilities, but nothing has changed from yesterday to today. 

What now?

The First Hope, a school providing a Christian alternative to unique abilities education for students ages 5 to 22, is helping families answer these questions and many more with the launch of its new podcast: “Inclusive Insights: Stories of Hope.”

The podcast is a collaborative effort between co-hosts Michelle Owen and Bethany Heinlein, as well as TFH Director Angel Alexander. Staff members come from three different generations with expansive backgrounds and a wide range of knowledge.

Inclusive Insights, which dropped its first episode Monday, Dec. 11, aims to create hope and a sense of community for families with children who have unique abilities and even those who don’t.

The podcast will release episodes monthly; seven already are recorded. The podcast is available on platforms including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. 

Owen believes the community needs to have the real conversations and normalize them as a human experience that everyone shares on some level.

“That is the remedy to every single part of this,” she said. “We all have something. It might be neurodiversity, it might be addiction, it might be a struggle with faith. Although this is a podcast that talks about inclusivity and neurodiversity, I think these same issues we discuss are normative for every family dynamic on every level. Whatever it is, real, honest and true conversation and connection are the remedy to that. That’s what we want to create with this podcast. Conversation, connection and community.”


Heinlein, who started with TFH in May 2022 and serves as the program coordinator and creative specialist, said the idea for the podcast emerged from a meeting with Carolina Flores in May 2023.

Flores, a TFH parent and co-owner of Hi Hello Labs in downtown Orlando with her husband, Carlos, approached Heinlein and told her about the lab. 

The First Hope podcast team recorded the series with the help of Carlos and Carolina Flores from Hi Hello Labs.
Courtesy photo

Heinlein had been trying to obtain more professional photos and videos for the school. She said it was “an act of God” when Flores approached her. 

“In my meeting with her, she was casually like, ‘Podcasts are the new market. Podcasts are the way to get information out.’ Everyone listens to a podcast, whether you’re showering, getting ready in the morning, or driving. It’s just very universal,” Heinlein said. “So, she kind of planted that idea, and I didn’t do anything with it at the time, but one day it just came up and we ran with it.”

Owen, who has been with TFH since August 2022 and is the academic and instructional advisor, had been working for a different company with a similar idea and decided to help make it happen at the school.

“As we were going through the process of organizing the podcast, we wanted to make sure we discussed the topics that were important to our families, and we started asking our families, ‘What conversations do you need to have?’ ‘What is the hardest conversation you had?’ Real, transparent, difficult conversations that families don’t want to feel alone in,” Owen said. “When it’s midnight and you’re talking with your spouse about next steps and they’re not on the same page with you, or you don’t have the resources you need, what are the real conversations? Because everyone is having these conversations isolated. They feel alone … (and) we can’t share everyone’s stories. Only they can share their stories, but we know their stories, and we want to say to families, ‘You’re not alone!’ But it’s not ours to tell. It’s theirs. That’s when we knew we needed to let people tell their stories, and this was the perfect platform.”

Some future topics will include how to search for schools, navigate finances and assess the future.

Heinlein said the podcast members wanted to focus on both the heart and the head of each topic. The heart comes from real testimonies and family stories, while the head is advice and practical application.

“I do feel like there is a good amount of support when the children are school aged; everyone’s looking for it, everyone wants early intervention, there’s specialists, but then there’s the ‘Oh, well the window has closed for interventions for your child,’” Owen said. “OK, well they don’t just disappear. They need jobs, friends, support and community. How do they live?”

Each podcast episode comes with a tangible resource, and guest speakers include Alexander, Kent Suter, a financial adviser and TFH parent, and Brian Cross, a licensed mental-health counselor.


Alexander, who has been been TFH for almost four years, is able to provide a unique and special perspective for families, as she lives the same story each and every day. 

She first learned about TFH years ago, when she was trying to get her daughter, who has unique abilities, into the school. At the time, the family could not afford it.

Her daughter, Joanna, is now 35 years old. 

“The sooner you accept that this is your child, the faster things will progress and move along for both of you,” Alexander said. “I spent a lot of years at the beginning trying to make her what I thought that she should be and what everyone else told me that she should be and do. Finally, one day you just look at her and say, ‘I think we’re capped. I think this is what we’re going to get, so we’re going to go with that.’ Somehow, everything then just falls into place. Maybe not beautifully all the time, but because you’re out of your own way, you start to see. The sooner you accept, the happier everyone is going to be.”

Alexander said finding the right fit for her own family, as well as other families, is an essential part of the work TFH does. 

“The awareness, just letting people know that it really is OK that this is your child, and to love and accept them where they are is super important,” she said. “You don’t give up on them or just put them in their room with their video games. You just find a fit. We’re a really good fit because we’re flexible, we’re creative. If this program’s not working, we’re fluent enough to move you to another program. There’s a lot of experience here. We want to grow the school with healthy enrollment with the right fit families.”

The members of the podcast hope to reach not only families at TFH, but also families across Central Florida and beyond to provide a support system network of faith-based resources people can depend on and will provide them with what they need.

“Biblically, we are called to have the hard conversations,” Owen said. “There are a lot of parents who live in shame or fear, and God has not given us a spirit of fear. So, as a faith-based school, we are called to walk in truth and stewardship. There are several verses that give teachers and ministers alike a responsibility and a calling to shepherd and disciple. Even just ethically, we all walk in shame for something, and to watch families believe this lie of shame and fear, to just go inwardly, to isolate themselves or put up walls; God has called us to community and fellowship. That is actually the remedy for all of these symptoms that come from isolation. Whether it’s with a neurodiverse family or a typical family, all of those variables, the remedy to each and every one of them is community. Accountability. Friendship. God made us and created us for connection.”



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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