From parent to advocate: IPAC’s Parent Representative

A basic IPAC principle is to improve health outcomes for children in our area. We do this by enlisting the expertise of professionals from a variety of disciplines. We also achieve this by engaging strong parents in our community. This collaboration has allowed us to develop innovative programs targeting our region’s needs. The key to this partnership has been finding individuals who have something to offer.

February was Parent Leadership Month, and we want to take a moment to highlight one of those individuals - IPAC’s Parent Representative, Noriko Kantake, Ph.D.

Kantake is the founder and president of the Autism Society of Southeast Ohio. She is also involved with several other organizations, including IPAC, ANDD (formally known as the Arc of Ohio) and the Family and Children First Council. Her role, she says, is to voice the concerns of families who have children with special needs.

“As I get to know more people, the better I can serve families,” she said. “That is what I feel.”

Although advocacy was never on her list of life-long goals, she has become an expert in the field. For over a decade, she and her family have worked tirelessly to ensure the proper services for her 12-year-old son Kai; he was formally diagnosed with autism at age 2.

These life experiences have honed her ability to gather information benefiting her family and others. Her passion has helped countless families, many in desperate situations, gain the confidence and resources necessary to make their lives with their developmentally disabled child more manageable.

“Many times, parents with newly diagnosed children are not aware of the services available,” she said. “But if a parent knows that I successfully negotiated with the school for my son's extended school year, for example, then she can ask for it, too. She can learn from me. My job as a parent advocate is to arm them with knowledge.”

In her role as IPAC Parent Representative, she’s also arming the professionals who work with children with special needs with information to better understand the parent perspective.

Parent leaders, like IPAC’s Parent Representatives, are essential and an effective means of strengthening families and improving collaboration among health providers.

For a more personal look on Kantake's experience, watch the photo documentary below. This project is posted here with permission from the producer, Chris Sinclair.

A Mother's Journey from Chris Sinclair on Vimeo.