A Father’s Story
Mr. Thanh is a Vietnamese father living in Lowell, MA. His young daughter had developed typically until age three, at which time, in his words, “everything stopped”. She had begun showing signs of Autism.
Thanh spent the next seven years searching for ways to help meet her needs, but with limited results. The special education system has been challenging for him to navigate. He did not know how things work nor understand his rights as a parent of a child with special needs. He had been trying to translate everything for his wife at the IEP meeting, struggling to understand jargon and novel terminologies which professionals threw out at meetings. His daughter is non-verbal but he did not realize that there are different ways to help facilitate communication for his daughter like PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or AAC (Alternative Augmentative Communication Device). He struggles handling his daughter’s behaviors at home. He has contacted different ABA (applied behavior analysis) providers in his area that take his private insurance. ABA is typically recommended for children with Autism, and to secure assistance with in-home care. Time after time, he was wait-listed or denied. In many cases, he did not even receive a response to his inquiry.
Eventually in July 2016, Thanh’s doctor referred him to Oanh Bui, the Federation’s Vietnamese Outreach Coordinator, who then connects him with other Vietnamese speaking parents of kids with special needs. He does not feel alone any more as Oanh was able to direct him to local sources for social, recreational, and educational support, and even helped him obtain coverage through MassHealth. With Oanh’s assistance, Thanh was able to more fully understand his daughter’s diagnosis, to navigate the complex system of special education, and to become a strong advocate for her needs. It was Oanh who suggested that he attend the Federation’s 2017 Visions of Community (VOC) conference.
At the conference, Thanh was elated to find that many of VOC’s exhibitors offered exactly the services he had spent nearly a decade looking for. He was even able to speak face-to-face with certain organizations that had previously relegated him to a wait list. Not only did he receive information about the breadth of available resources, he also received callbacks the very next day. “I never thought I would learn so much in one day”, he said, emphasizing that he intends to attend the 2018 conference, bringing with him other Lowell parents of children with special needs.