Crossing cultural divide to help Latinx families deal with autism
September 16, 2019
An autism diagnosis is a challenge for any family. For some in the Latinx community, there’s a cultural stigma that makes that challenge even tougher.
New funding will help Autism Delaware increase its outreach to reduce that stigma and help those families.
“I was devastated. I didn’t know where to start,” said Maria Merma. When she found out her now-4-year-old son Bruno had autism, she was overwhelmed. She attended a meeting hosted by Autism Delaware to find some answers and found someone who understood her concerns.
“I just needed somebody to hold my hand, and she did,” Merma said.
Ivanka Carbajal works as a family navigator at Autism Delaware, and since that first meeting, she’s guided Merma through the process of getting her son connected to the services he needs.
“The fact that she was Latina like I was, oh that was a huge blessing,” Merma said. “To talk in your own language, not just Spanish, but the cultural language, is huge … You know that this person will understand exactly what you’re going through.”
Merma immigrated to the United States from Peru 13 years ago. She said an autism diagnosis comes with a big stigma where she’s from.
“In South America … things are handled very different with special-needs kids,” she said. “If I ever go home, he would never be treated like here.”
The number of families helped by Autism Delaware has grown dramatically in recent years. For fiscal year 2018-2019, 5,045 parents got in contact with the group to inquire about getting help, a 56% growth over the previous year. The group attributes that growth to better outreach and referrals from A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children and others.