Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Carrying the Torch

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Carrying the Torch

Article excerpt

IN THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF Exceptional Parent, a look back at two decades in the field of developmental disabilities by a parent advocate may be appropriate. I did not come to this volunteer career path by professional training but by the birth of my daughter Kathy Patterson, now age 23, who has profound mental retardation and self-injurious behavior. She has always resided at home. My advocacy first involved finding appropriate family support services but eventually broadened to advocating for all children, adults, families and professionals touched by mental retardation and other developmental disabilities so that the next generation would not have to experience the struggles of the past.

Like so many parents, the struggle was so great for our own child that it was easy to become an island to one's self. Yet, as I became more aware of the history of the movement and the history of volunteer and professional advocates in the 50s and 60s whose struggles made possible the breakthroughs in the 70s and 80s, I started to focus outwardly. It was that transition from denial and "Why me, oh God?" to the more appropriate question of "What am I going to do about it?"

I realized that each generation of parents and professionals touched by developmental disabilities has a supreme obligation to serve as trustee for succeeding generations of families and clients. Residing in New Jersey, I was greatly influenced and inspired by Dr. Elizabeth Boggs who has served as a role model for countless thousands in this movement. She ranks second only to the most influential person in my life, my daughter Kathy. We as parents, along with our children and adults with disabilities, are so indebted to these pioneer advocates that words will never suffice. Only our deeds will be enough to carry the torch which they light so brightly. They pioneered, probed, provided and persuaded with such passion that they held officials' feet to the fire and kept the spurs in the flanks of government. Can we, their successors, do any less in the 90s and beyond the year 2000?

I was first introduced to Exceptional Parent in the early 70s through an Ann Landers column that provoked thousands of responses including mine. …

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