By Anna Wang & Kelly Ko, Friends of Children With Special Needs
All children are the hopes and dreams of their parents, and most parents proudly share their children’s successes and accomplishments with others. But, as parents of children with special needs, it’s much harder for us talk about our children’s challenges.
As Chinese Americans, our cultural upbringing often affects how we view autism. As we know, in many Asian cultures there is great stigma around disabilities and differences. We often feel shame, embarrassment, and disappointment for having a child with disability. It can be taboo to discuss these matters with others, even close friends. In fact, some of us keep our special needs children at home because we worry about criticism and rejection.
Self-reliance is a central theme in Chinese culture, but this important value also keeps us from seeking important support and services for our children’s development (such as early assessment, diagnosis, and intervention). Insisting on taking care of matters on our own makes it even harder for us to ask for help from agencies that could make a difference in our children’s and families’ lives. Even when services are available, many of us are reluctant to apply. Of course, this means we have less access to special-needs services, which causes a disparity between ours and non-Chinese American communities.
Let’s begin to talk more openly about our children’s lives, challenges, needs, and unique strengths so we can heighten community awareness. Let’s support others within our community through culturally-aware support groups, workshops, and other outreach about our rights to receive support and services for our amazing children. Let’s help all our Chinese-American children with special needs thrive in their communities and live to their fullest potential.
Together, we can work to eliminate the stigma in our community and improve the support and services our children and families need.
Friends of Children With Special Needs helps individuals with special needs and their families find love, hope, respect, and support through integrated community involvement. Special thanks also to Dora Chou, Shiow Luan Chen, and Xiao Yan Lue.