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Who wins?


I’m working through my interview data at the moment and a phrase struck me. The participant was talking about parents of children on the autistic spectrum, and she said: “… or you are deemed to be a very vocal parent who’s only got what they’ve got because you’ve been so pushy about it and you’ve fought the legal system.”

That got me thinking about something that occurred to me quite forcibly a few months during a writing course at university. The thought was where was the child and the child’s voice in all this. Sometimes it can be presented as though parents are fighting the education system, the health system, or whatever because they want to. Yet surely the parents only find themselves in this fight scenario because of the needs of their child. To have a child who is unhappy and can’t cope with the ‘normal’ stuff most children are believed to thrive on is heartbreaking for most parents. Is it that surprising that parents find a voice and will “move heaven and earth” (as it said in the brochure for a school my son once attended) to get their child the help they need? The parents are not trying to achieve a victory for themselves, but to get their child’s needs met – or are they?

But what does the child actually want? How much of a voice do they have in the process of securing appropriate educational provision? I’m not going to attempt to answer that here, but what I do want to recognise is how important it is not to lose sight of the child or young person in everything else which may be going on.



  1. Ian Robson says:

    Liz, in my experience all sorts of teams, organisations and ‘systems’ say they are focused on the needs of the child. Well, yes and no. In reality, we know it gets much more complicated than this!. Lots of things end up changing the focus; how things get measured, what gets discussed and how, what gets measured and how and so on. We could probably list a whole load of these ‘influences’ between us, including: the nature of professional power, language systems, type of ‘issue’ etc etc!

    Personally, as the parent of three adopted children (and one born to us) I’ve realised that ‘fighting’ for your children is needed, but that this is no doubt harder if you also (unlike us) face further economic, cultural or other barriers. It does seem particularly difficult to establish a shared understanding of children’s needs, which is something needed for joint action. Unfortunatley, this requires meaningful dialogue which so many things about the professional ‘environment’ work against. Interesting post 🙂

  2. lizit says:

    Thanks for that Ian. as you say, there is a lot of complexity there and the rhetoric frequently doesn’t match the reality. This is very much at the heart of my research where I am asking questions about why fight is such a common metaphor and to what extent there can be any kind of genuine community of practice across disciplines and including parents.
    As you say, some of us find it easier to ‘fight’ for our children because of the various skills, knowledge, aptitudes we have acquired along the way. It really worries me seeing how some parents want to fight – and do fight as best they are able – but without a lot of support there can be just too many obstacles.
    I think the other concern for me is whether at the end of the day our children agree with the choices we have made. This is a discussion I have with my son, who has strong feelings that we made some bad choices, but, I think, is beginning to realise that if we had not fought those battles, he would not be in the place he is now. Which is not to say, we did not make some bad choices – and some of those were made on the advice of professionals.
    Parenting any child is difficult and challenging. When you throw any kind of special needs into the mix, I guess the risk of making wrong calls (or perhaps misunderstood or disliked calls) increases all the more.
    Must talk more.

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