Cultural Immersion Project Part 3: Autism
1. Share some of the background of your interviewee (or couple). What was this person’s/couple’s story? [300 words]
Arelys and Danny told me that, raising a child with autism is not easy but not impossible. They told me that at first it definitely affected their relationship because they could not understand the problem that their child was facing. At times they considered separating. Although both of them are financially supportive and have a great relationship with their children their relationship took a toll and led to many challenges. They first noticed some unusual behaviors that their oldest daughter Jaclyn never showed. Gabriel tends to aligne everything in a specific format such as blocks and other objects, if they were moved he would have tantrums that would upset him for long periods of times. He is a 2 year old boy and has not yet been able to show signs of speech and so this was one of the main reasons as to why they decided to take him to the doctor.
Taking Gabriel to the doctor has helped Arelys and Danny in many ways. Before they feared that they were not sure on help their child. They now feel a sense of relief because he is receiving treatment at a special school where he will be receiving speech therapy and other ways of interacting with individuals at his tender age. He also qualifies for many benefits from the government that will also alleviate a lot of the stress that they were feeling before.
Arelys and Danny spoke to me as if I have known them for so many years. They opened up to me because they felt that they wanted to bring more awareness to the community. They stated that treating their child at an early has so many benefits in the long run and that setting up certain adjustments from the early stages of a child’s life is most essential for the future to come. 2. How open was the interviewee/couple? Why do you think this was so? [100 words] Visiting the Rivas Family’s house was truly an enjoyable experience. They absolutely made me feel very welcome and very much at home. They spoke to me about their culture, their upbringing and how they want to pass that on to both their children. They cooked for me and shared lives with me as if I have known them for many years. They are a very young couple in their mid 20s and they recently found out that their son Gabriel is autistic. Arelys and Danny are very caring individuals that at first did not really know what to expect. My experience with Arelys and Danny was truly a privilege. I was able to discuss some of their deepest experiences as a couple and a family with a child who has autism. They are two educated individuals from Puerto Rico who are very well educated and successful. They strive for the best for their family and are willing to make any sacrifices so that their child can receive the best health care and education they can.
3. What were some key cultural events (interactions with the majority culture, experiences of racism, positive experiences with the majority culture, etc.) for this person/couple? [250 words]
One of the experiences that Arelys and Danny went through as far as discrimination was the fact that at times they went to supermarkets or shopping malls and people would react to little Gabriel’s behavior in a negative matter. Arelys and Gabriel told me that before Gabriel’s diagnosis they were unfamiliar as to why their son was behaving in a way that would cause tantrums. This was one of the reasons as to why they seeked help because, not only was it a time of stress for them to receive the negative remarks from people but it was frustrating for them not to be able to understand why their son was reacting in such a way. One of the most difficult facts about autism is that people do not understand that children have a hard time making sense of the world. Children with autism have problems understanding and interacting with other people. When something new is presented to a child with autism it is out of their comfort zone, therefore when Arelys and Danny would take Gabriel to new and unfamiliar areas it was out of his comfort zone and people were very much judgmental and inconsiderate towards them. They felt unwanted within their own community.
A positive experience that Arelys and Danny have had is the fact that now that they are aware that their son has Autism, when they receive feedback from the neighbors and people in the shops they take the opportunity bring autism awareness to the community. They now know that Gabriel needs order, structure and in his surroundings. 4. What was your sense of this person’s acculturation level and racial/cultural identity
development? Why do you think this? [200 words]
I believe that Arelys and Danny have definitely adapted to the autism culture. They are learning to receive and accept autism as a unique and special way as opposed to a disorder. Arelys and Danny have told me that people who have children must learn to embrace it as opposed to denying it. They have told me that receiving the diagnosis has brought a sense of peace to their lives and that they are more confident and can now trust the fact that their child is going to receive the best care and education possible. Arelys and Danny also mentioned to me that at first they believed that they would not receive the support from the community and the city, but when their child was diagnosed it was the total opposite. Their child is now receiving the educational, community and financial support to assure that he has the best future possible. Arelys and Danny want to learn more and more about autism so that they may educate their families, friends and community about the importance of autism.
They want the community to have a better understanding and be less prejudging towards children with autism. They no longer get offended when people make comments to them and their son; they take the opportunity to educate and make them aware so that they can pass it on to others who might be unaware of autism. 5. How did you respond emotionally towards the interviewee/couple during the interview? Given what you know about your cultural background (you did a paper on it, remember?) and other aspects of your personal experience, why do you think you reacted this way? [250 words]
I was intrigued to learn about autism, during the interview at first I was very on guard and cautious to assure that I said the correct words without offending anyone. I was very respectful and a bit nervous. As I got to know Arelys and Danny we were able to build more of a bond and trust and there was more of openness throughout our interview. It felt as if we were friends for a long time and they were just bringing awareness to me. We had the opportunity to build a relationship that allowed me to ask questions that were deep and valid for me to understand autism. They even told me that there relationship was effected in ways where it was difficult for the extended families to accept that they had a family member with autism. I was truly honored and privileged to know that they had taken the time for speak with me about one of their most personal experiences.
When meeting Gabriel, they prepared Gabriel and he was made aware that I was coming to visit him and play with him. Gabriel was very happy to see me and even played with me. I was able to notice that the structure began within their household and the changes that are being made are healthy ones that are reflecting positively. I learned that Arelys and Danny do not get much sleep because their son Gabriel doe snot get a full nights sleep and so, emotionally I was able to reflect and think that I should not complain about a lack of sleep. 6. What did your interview with this person/couple add to your knowledge about this cultural group that you did not get from Parts 1 and 2? [200 words]
My interview with Arelys and Gabriel taught me that there are many services out there for people with autism. I was not aware that there were so many special programs out their for children with autism and families struggling to cope with the changes from receiving the news that their child has autism. Arelys and Danny told me that the city of New York offers children with autism programs that help them build and establish a foundation for independence along with, a sense of individual self worth. Throughout these programs parents are told that they are the main educators for their children. Arelys and Danny also told me that children are taught to respect and cooperate with others and they work with the child to help him find his gifts and talents that will help him all the way until they age of 21.
Danny also mentioned to me that throughout this program they will help promote Gabriel’s social, emotional, speech and physical development. They will provide Gabriel with creative activities that will open new opportunities in order for him to function and face other challenges along the way. What gives Arelys and Danny a sense of comfort is that he will be given the opportunity like every child deserves. 7. Remind yourself of the Biblical Worldview Lens material considered in Module/Week 1 of this course (see the presentation titled “Interpreting Culture” in the Module/Week 1 Reading & Study folder). What are some strengths or elements of common grace that you see operating in this cultural group? How can we pray for people in this cultural group? [200 words]
Some of the strengths and elements of common grace that I see operating within the Autism is that through common grace we can learn from other cultures and love our neighbors as ourselves. I learned that Arelys and Danny are demonstrating that love by bringing awareness to their community. There are many people that can definitely be harsh and bringing awareness will help the community to think before they speak. The community is a place where we can demonstrate that love that many people are not aware of. It is extremely imperative that we teach people so that they may remain humble and considerate towards people with autism. It is also vital that as Christians we acknowledge other cultures and express that God is love. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Arelys and Danny want to demonstrate that love by making people aware that regardless of what differences we have God loves each and everyone of us because we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I believe that the way we can pray for people with autism is with love, care and a heart that is sincere.
Which part of this immersion experience (parts 1, 2, and 3) was most helpful to you in learning about this cultural group? Why do you think this was so? [100 words]
Part 2 of my immersion experience was most helpful for me to understand Autism. Mildred and David were very open and brought awareness to me about their son David from his infancy stage all the way to his late adolescent stage. They also taught me about how he has to follow a visual schedule in order to maintain structure. Mildred and David were able to also speak to me about how autism can affect one’s marriage and family as a whole. They taught me that a schedule is essential for children with autism, because it gives them a sense of being secure and safe. Mildred and David taught me that having an autistic child grow up in a Christian household is essential to keep everyone at peace, by completely trusting God.