Businesswoman, philanthropist and the single mother of a child with special needs, Kathy D. Carmack-Sutton has made it her life’s mission to help children and families with similar circumstances.
Ms. Sutton is the CEO and Vice President of SIERF—the Sensory Integration Education Research Foundation—founded in 2003. Pronounced as “surf,” SIERF has made a name for itself as a premier hub connecting parents and professionals to the proper research, funding and therapy for such complex sensory diagnoses—assistance that is often deemed elusive.
Kathy Sutton has seen plenty of success in the workforce, having worked as an accounting executive assistant for Merrill Lynch, and at Occidental Petroleum. In addition, she was a legal assistant for the law offices of Lawler, Felix and Hall. This granted her tremendous legal experience and expertise, with a comparable background in marketing, philanthropy and public relations. But it was after birthing her second child when she realized that she would have to put her career on hiatus; as her son aged, she realized he was suffering from more than just Down syndrome.
Kathy Sutton bore years of misdiagnoses until she connected with another parent, learning about SPD—Sensory Processing Disorder—as her son was also diagnosed with Autism. She endured the most excruciating, heartbreaking journey towards this discovery, and from that moment on, Kathy vowed never to let another parent go through such agony. From there, she began volunteering at Sensory Integration organizations, becoming beyond instrumental in fundraising. Arming herself with immeasurable power, Kathy soon became a co-founder of SIERF.
Kathy Sutton is hailed as a lifesaver, receiving stockpiles of gratitude from the many families SIERF has helped. For instance:
“I have a daughter that has a learning disability and a speech delay. Unfortunately, because she doesn’t have a ‘major disability’ as they say, there is no other kind of help that I can get other than the school district. I met Mrs. Kathy and she told me about SIERF. I found peace of mind that my child would be ok, that her organization will help me. There is no way to repay Mrs. Kathy, but her words of encouragement and her great organization have really blessed us in a way unimaginable. Thank you SIERF and Mrs. Kathy.”
“My daughter Margot was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder at nineteen months. Her unusual behavior kept mounting, and my pediatrician never really had answers to why. We began therapy with an experienced and compassionate therapist in our area that oversaw Margot’s therapy. I thought everything was getting better, until suddenly one day she began pulling out her hair again. I talked with our therapist and she suggested I contact SIERF to see what other avenues of research I might pursue.
“Kathy at SIERF called me back the same day I left my message. She listened to my story and referred me to a therapist a couple time zones away that gave me a free phone consultation. Margot is now 3-1/2 years old, rarely pulls her hair, and exhibits very few behaviors associated with SPD. I am grateful for the work of Kathy and the network of therapists associated with SIERF for their commitment to working with parents, offering support and guidance during what feels like a lonely, scary and isolating time.”
Clearly, Kathy Sutton is a woman of grace and integrity. In fact, that may be an understatement. No one can deny her passion for serving the families and organizations of special-needs children, as this is her God-given purpose. As she likes to say, her son Myles was “job ONE;” Kathy Sutton is helping one school…one family…one child after another.
Wayne Community College – Criminal Justice, Accounting
California State – Los Angeles – Paralegal Studies
Merrill Lynch – Account Executive Assistant
Occidental Petroleum - Accounts Payable
Arter & Hadden, Lawler Felix and Hall – Legal Assistant
SI International – Director of Development (National Chairman of SI Walk, which took place in 14 cities on the same day and raised over $50,000.)