Hacienda Heights group battles cultural stigma of disabilities

When Lulu Shen gave birth to her youngest daughter, Alexandra, she was overwhelmed with feelings of shame and guilt for producing something often shunned in the Chinese community – a child with Down Syndrome.

“I thought, `What did I do to deserve this?”‘ Shen, 56, said. “To have a disabled child was shocking and my parents didn’t want me to bring her around or they wouldn’t look at her. It’s like a curse. They think there’s something wrong in your past life.”

The Hacienda Heights resident said she went through stages of denial before accepting her now 18-year-old daughter’s disability.

“All we can do is love them because no one else can love them like we do,” Shen said.

The process has been easier for Shen since she joined the Foundation for Disabled Youths, a grassroots nonprofit group that helps erase the stigma Asian cultures often associate with disabilities and encourages families to come out of the shadows.

Founded in 2004 by local parents with disabled children, the Hacienda Heights-based organization provides children with weekly activities – including outings to the LA County Fair and horseback riding – and parents with support groups and monthly seminars to teach them about their legal rights and available resources.

Read more in Juliette Funes story Stigma.

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