Professional Ethics for Special Needs Parent Advocates
By Pat Linkhorn
Parent advocates for special needs children should have a professional code of ethics that permeates their actions.
They don't have a degree to qualify you as a professional parent, but the world of Acadamia would be hard pressed to teach through courses what we've learned first hand. No college courses, no matter how grueling, could promise to simulate the gut-wrenching fear and pain we have experienced as parents. Nor could it simulate an experience that would provide a person with the clarity of vision we experience when we face prejudice in its rawest form and all its injustice.
What makes a parent become a "professional" parent? Initially, we all start by fighting our own battles. Somewhere along the battle line, we begin to see that others are still where weve come from. A truly compassionate person has such a capacity for empathy that the pain of all those others is added to our own burden, so we continue to fight the battle, even when our child has passed that stage. That is where the knowledge we've gleaned firsthand gives us the right to speak for others. It gives meaning to the heartache when what we have learned can help others.
But, with the right to speak for others comes a tremendous responsibility. For when we speak for others, our actions become the actions of not just us, but of the masses. We must realize that others will be judged by what we do and by how we do it.
In the world of disabilities, diversity is a highly valued trait, and one we should embrace by all means. However, within that diversity must run a common thread of professionalism that will gain respect and cause the movement to advance. Parents who engage in the role of "professional" parents should have a code of ethics that permeates their actions. As to what those ethics are, and even though each person will have their own personal values, the actions we take must reflect the bigger picture. It is not unusual for us to be rather single-minded at the beginning of each battle or cause we fight for. Single-mindedness is a necessary trait because it helps us to focus on what we are trying to change. Having a definite goal will help deter us from being talked into a less effective solution. It all seems to point to the methods we use to get to our goal and how much destruction we leave in the wake of our battles.
There are time when systemic, meaningful change can only occur through
drastic measures. However, much of what we change, in order to be permanent
and lasting, has to be subtle. The shift in the way many professionals
see and deal with our children can't be made to happen, but must evolve.
We must make believers out of the skeptics and make them believe that
it was their idea to believe.
Pat Linkhorn is an advocate/trainer/information specialist with the Ohio Coalition for the
Education of Children with Disabilities. She is also an experienced parent and has two girls with special needs - autism and blindness due to prematurity. http://thelinkto.com/laugh
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