Who Is an Expert?

Nov 22, 2010
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In the 15 years that I have been working with people who have disabilities, I have continuously gained new insight and information about various conditions.  In my line of work, I interact daily with people who are living with different disabilities and conditions.  Many have the same disability and yet much like snowflakes, no two people experience their disabilities in the same way.  The question I ask today, what exactly is the definition of an expert?  Can any person really master any disability or illness to the point of calling themselves an ‘Expert’?

Thanks to the Internet, both good and bad information can be found on just about any disability.  If you search long and hard enough, you can be both living and dying from the same chronic illness or medical condition simultaneously.  Although various resources and books can be a good basis for building a foundation of knowledge, they can never replace the most valuable resource of all…..the person living with the disability.

Doctors are trained and schooled in all areas of the human body, but without living with a specific chronic illness can they fully understand what their patient is dealing with?  I recently had a frustrating experience with a new doctor who was trying to be helpful to me with his input, however his lack of real understanding about my chronic illness prevented his information from being useful.  I felt as though I was educating him halfway through our time together.

People who work with individuals that have disabilities may believe that they understand what M.S. feels like when it is flaring up or what functioning muscles a person with a T-7 Spinal Cord Injury can utilize in their strength training workout, but this would be a false assumption for any professional to make regardless of their years of experience in the field.  A medical doctor has a certain perspective, as does a physical therapist, a nutritionist, and the person with the disability themselves.  Each brings a unique element of expertise to the equation and when all these people work together, the best answers can be found!

Author: Elizabeth