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For Providers Serving the Chinese American Autism Community

By Anna Wang & Phyllis Tung, Friends of Children With Special Needs

Families of children with special needs often struggle with feeling included, and families of children with autism face a particular challenge because their children’s way of communicating and behaving is frequently misunderstood. We’d like to share some of our thoughts with providers who serve the autism community.

Chinese-American families of children with special needs face some unique challenges and obstacles around feeling included, accepted, and respected. These may include:

  • Chinese cultural and/or religious beliefs about disability. Having a child with disability may be seen as a punishment. These beliefs can create stigma, shame and fear of negative reactions;
  • Chinese Americans are culturally ingrained to comply with government authorities, therefore they may not consent to the service and benefits granted by social and government systems;
  • Lack of understanding of American social legal and political systems, which can make advocating for our children difficult;
  • Chinese Americans are very private and often avoid sharing personal problems to avoid burdening others; and
  • Language barriers.

Chinese-American families would benefit from more outreach and encouragement to engage with others in ways that feel comfortable. We invite providers and others in the non-special needs community to stand beside us!

Providers can help by ensuring our families receive the services we need. Another way to support us is to emphasize our children’s strengths, rather than just the challenges. For instance, out children often shine in areas such as attention to detail, deep focus, observational skills, and remembering facts. They may also have unique ways of problem solving.

We have a lot of progress to make in building awareness within our communities and beyond, but the rewards will be great. We invite all providers to build bridges of understanding and support to our culture and to our special needs families. Inclusively and awareness training and among providers can also go a long way in helping all children enjoy the support, safety, love respect, friendship, and belonging that everyone needs. That’s when the entire autism community can fully enjoy the true benefits of inclusivity and diversity!

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 Luo.