A recent Autism Speaks blog discussed serving the refugee resettlement community in Rochester, NY. Our own Erie community has a refugee population beyond 10,000. Over the past decade, approximately 350-475 new refugees have annually resettled in the city, thereby making Erie one of the largest resettlement destinations for refugees in PA. In our school, we have over 20 refugee students enrolled who have emigrated over the last several years from Eastern Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Central America.
As I read this blog, I couldn’t help but think about the challenges the parents of these children have experienced, not only in moving to a new country, but also in possibly not knowing the language, the customs, the education or social services systems. Most of them have expressed to me that the primary reason they came to the United States was to receive services for their child with a disability. They were willing to live in refugee camps for years if only they could resettle in the United States in the future. Their experiences underline how fortunate we are in America to have the wealth of support services for children and adults with disabilities and their families.
With the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act coming up this Saturday the 26th, I applaud the leadership role the United States has taken in securing equal rights for citizens with disabilities. While there’s always room for improvement, it’s important to acknowledge how privileged we in the United States are, in so many ways.