EMBRACING OUR DIFFERENCES

by Angela West

As we celebrate Memorial Day, I think about the men and women who fight for our freedom. My mother came here from South Korea and started a life with my father. Even thirty years later, she tells me that she is thankful that I was born in America because I’ve had opportunities that she knows I would not have received in South Korea. May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – a great time to remember to celebrate our diversity.

Many people come to America to start a new life. This comes with a lot of sacrifices and uncertainty. Traveling to America can be more stressful when you have a child with a disability. Some people are searching for advanced medical treatment or the expertise of higher education. Even when a person has such high hopes, they may still have deep fears.

Through my work as the Center for Family Involvement’s Cultural broker to the Asian community, I meet people from all across that massive continent. Not long ago I sat down with a nurse practitioner to talk about some of the experiences she had with the Asian culture. One of the things that I learned was many parents have fears that are like every parent. We discussed how parents are afraid that their child will not wake up if they have seizures.  She takes the time to validate those fears, but also explains how different medications can help control the seizures. She knows she must take her time and earn these families’ trust. She also mentioned that she must be aware of when to suggest other treatments. Many people still believe in Eastern medicine and if their visit feels at all confrontational, they tend to not return. I appreciate that she takes the time to educate herself and she encourages others to do the same.

I am thankful that we have professionals that are serving in the disability field who are sensitive to people with different backgrounds – their needs and sensitivities. One of my passions is sharing the thoughts of cultural humility. This goes beyond just being sensitive to other people’s cultures and truly practicing with understanding the value in differences.

***ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Angela West earned a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her passion for disability advocacy stems from advocating for her own rights as a young woman with cerebral palsy.***

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