Book Review: YES YOU CAN!

Reviewed by Mary de Paor

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Dr Mark Nagler is professor of sociology at Renison College, University of Waterloo. He was born in Calgary in 1939, with cerebral palsy. His parents resisted the professional advice, not surprising at that time, to have their son institutionalised, and their ongoing advocacy gained him a place in a mainstream school, and higher education. Nagler’s personal and professional experience have formed the basis for his book Yes you can!, which he has written to encourage parents to be ‘your own best advocate and the best advocate for your child’.

The book covers dealing with the diagnosis of a child’s disability, definitions and elements of advocacy, the effect of disability on the family, how to handle stress, educational questions, support groups, choosing care givers, housing and finance. An appendix gives sample letters to assist in gaining entitlements and rights to education, etc.

Yes you can! was written for a Canadian audience and for parents of children with a wide spectrum of disabilities, primarily physical and sensory. The (father and son) authors’ style could be described as new world optimism—not a criticism at all for the encouraging call to arms that the book is meant to be for parents. Chapters on education and approaches to public authorities are not immediately useful for readers on this side of the Atlantic. The same limitation applies to its directory of disability-regulated organisations, all with North American addresses. However, the bibliography at the end of the book is relevant for all European readers.

This book presents a big challenge to parents to help their children to achieve their potential. ‘Success is doing the best that you can do. It’s not an absolute definition—it’s a spectrum of possibilities. You never know what you or your child may be capable of doing.’ Despite the obvious difficulties and stresses experienced by all parents of children with disabilities, the author insists on an optimistic ‘can do’ approach to advocacy. This book should be a useful addition to the library of all learning disability centres, and should be made available to parents and friends associations.

YES YOU CAN! A guide for parents of children with disabilities, by Mark Nagler (with Adam Nagler). Stoddart Publishing Co., Toronto (1997). ISBN 0 7737 5866 6. Paperback (available from Amazon.com at $11.16; sterling price also available).

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