An Accidental Advocate: A Mother’s Journey with Her Exceptional Child

Kathryn Burke is currently the Executive Director of the Centre for Literacy, an organization that provides support to students with learning disabilities/disorders in reading, writing and mathematics. This is a personal story – one about how she became an accidental advocate.  Kathryn is the parent of a son with learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other mental health issues.  An Accidental Advocate chronicles the journey to identify her son’s challenges and obtain the supports necessary to address his needs. Kathryn writes with candor about the steep learning curve and emotions that accompany being a parent of a child with exceptional needs, and her family’s experiences in dealing with the education and health systems.

Kathryn has succeeded in writing a book that is a must read for parents, teachers, professionals, policy makers or anyone interested in the education of children who have exceptional needs. The book is compelling and personal; parents who are undergoing a journey like Kathryn and her family will identify with the struggles and journey outlined in An Accidental Advocate. Teachers will gain insight into how to support families and children with exceptional needs. Politicians and their advisors will benefit from Kathryn’s policy expertise as she comments on the core values and mission of health and education systems.



ISBN 978-1-926755-03-8

2011 Sextant Publishing, Edmonton AB

6 reviews for An Accidental Advocate: A Mother’s Journey with Her Exceptional Child

  1. Dr. Stephen Murgatroyd, Chief Scout, Murgatroyd Communications & Consulting

    This is an insightful, focused and moving account of a mother’s journey through the perilous pathways and joys of parenting a child with exceptional abilities which are different from those expected of a “normal” child. So different, in fact, that they are generally labeled in terms of learning disabilities. Kathryn Burke found herself becoming an advocate, politician, writer, journalist, blogger, manager of expectations, fighter, imagineer, change agent and counsel to others in a way that she never expected. She does this work well, as all who know her know. This account is a handbook for those living through such an experience but is also a handbook for those who find themselves an accidental advocate, whatever the cause. You will laugh, cry and reflect – all a reader could ask for.

  2. Michele Pentyliuk, Past President – Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta

    Every parent with a child who has learning challenges should read An Accidental Advocate. Kathryn’s story is both personal and inspiring as she describes her journey from the joys of new parenthood, through denial that her son was experiencing more than simply short-term challenges, to embracing her role as advocate, not only for her son, but the entire LD community.

  3. Lori Fankhanel, Founder and President – SPD Canada

    An Accidental Advocate is a phenomenal read. Kathryn Burke’s relentless journey of advocacy for her son, chronicled in the book, will help professionals and those in the world of education see the ‘other side.’ It will also empower parents of children with exceptional needs to advocate in a collaborative manner.

  4. Kieran Leblanc, Executive Director, Book Publishers Association of Alberta 

    I laughed, I cried, I felt angry, I felt hopeless, and then I felt encouraged and full of hope. An Accidental Advocate is a compelling story.

  5. Lorrie Goegan, Past Chair –  Learning Disabilities Association of Canada

    Insightful and candid…written with humor and from the heart … An Accidental Advocate should serve as a roadmap for other parents of exceptional children.

  6. The late Fil Fraser, Broadcaster & Journalist

    Kathryn Burke has written a sensitive, informative, heart-grabbing book that is a testament to the critical importance of advocacy in the face of systems that are too often so overloaded that they lose sight of their true mandate. This story of a family that refused to accept uncaring bureaucratic responses when it came to the education and development of a beautiful child impaired by disability will serve as an anchor, a sword and a shield for any family with a child whose abilities don’t follow the norm. Every parent will learn valuable lessons from this book, and parents of children with disabilities will be introduced to knowledge and insights that can help them turn failure into success.

     Ms Burke’s fearless honesty about her own life journey and her commitment to seeking the best for her bright but exceptional son, is a roadmap that will encourage and inspire other parents. The book ends when her son, 15 and on his way to a successful adulthood, asks his mother “How have you coped with me?” Her answer brought tears to my eyes. It is a joy.

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