Leading with empathy, disability advocate has given PACER Center a global reach

By Kim Ode 

“I think respect and empathy go together,” said Paula Goldberg, co-founder of the PACER Center in Bloomington. “We’re teaching parents of children with disabilities to become self-­advocates, and advocacy isn’t about empathy as much as it’s about strength.”

Paula Goldberg shows the power of empathy – and not being shy about asking for help. 

Kathy Graves recalled how Goldberg helped her respond when some teachers would focus on what Sam couldn’t handle. “She told me to start every meeting by stating what he can do, which really helped me as a mom,” she said.

“When you get the diagnosis, you don’t want sympathy. That makes it almost worse. But empathy feels like she’s saying, ‘So you weren’t dealt quite the hand you expected. How are we going to solve this problem?’ ”