Rosalia, a mother of child with disabilities, talks about her advocacy work and about how to help families be advocates for their children, especially for immigrant families (running time: 3 min., 01 sec.).
My first reaction, I still remember, was that “it cannot be” because I’m a lawyer and her father is a mechanical engineer. How can my daughter be mentally retarded? It’s not possible! We’re in the middle class and it cannot be! Then I started to realize that I need to know what it is, everything about. And then this new word, and discover what it is, how I can help in this life. That’s why I came to be an advocate. But it was very hard at the beginning. We have to be in charge of our children’s education and be actively participants in that process. Once one family knows about that, they are the best advocates for their children. And they are really proactive to learn and understand all the rights and all the processes and be an active participant of the education process.
We have many, many issues around ourselves as Latinos and to really trust someone we need to test in all ways possible that they really are taking our children into consideration, that they really respect us and respect our differences I think that the teachers need to understand where we are coming from. Mainly that we do not have a regular life as other members of the community – whites or Anglo-American parents – because we struggle with many things at the same time and that’s what the teachers need to be in consideration. I had an experience of a teacher who after my talks that frequently I do, were apologizing to me. Because she said, well, and she was crying literally, and she said “I thought that the mother didn’t care about the daughter and I never intended to approach her because I just said she doesn’t want to learn English and she doesn’t want to be in the system.” It happened that she really was struggling with immigration papers and she was almost out of her apartment because she didn’t have money, plus with a girl with severe disabilities. And they need to know that we’re not a regular community. We struggle with many other things besides the disability, which is one more on top of all the issues that we have.