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As a Mom Who’s Latina, I Wish…

October 1, 2021
Steffany Ruiz
Community Voices
A Latina mother and her toddler son pose for a picture. Full, green rose bush in the background.

I have lived it. Many Latino professionals in the special education space have lived the struggle of not being able to access resources. I have experienced how difficult it is to speak Spanish in a world where “I don’t speak Spanish” is common. I know how frustrating it is to raise a family in the United States and not have the support of our community. I know how painful it is to not have the comfort of our native land. We know that even though we have limitations in language and access, at the end of the day nothing will stop us from giving our children what we couldn’t have.

I was born in Bogotá, Colombia and came to New York seven years ago. That wasn’t my first time in the United States: my undocumented parents raised me here for 10 years when I was a little girl. I learned about the extensive efforts of Spanish speaking parents in this country, which is what brought me to work with Latina families and their kids with disabilities. As the eldest daughter of Latino parents, I always knew the necessity that Latina families have to understand the different government programs in order to get help for their children. That is why I am a psychologist with experience in the field of social and clinical psychology and help families with young children who have a disability or suspect they have a disability. I work one on one with families through specialized calls where parents share with me concerns and needs, conversations like “My child isn’t speaking,” “My child has autism,” or “I want my child to be evaluated to see if he has a disability.” I profoundly believe that families with young children need specialized support in the disability and special services world, because the sooner they understand their rights and responsibilities, the sooner they can make informed decisions about special education services for their child. And now, as a mother of an almost two year old boy who has a speech delay, I personally understand the importance of helping parents know what services are available for their children with disabilities or delays in development.

I have to admit that my work in this field has permitted me to have a unique understanding of the system that many Latina families unfortunately do not have. Due to my ample experience of helping families connect to Early Intervention programs, I found it much easier to ask questions and fight for the rights of my child. Even with this knowledge, it has been a difficult journey for me. It makes me worry for the families I assist and how they navigate the special education system. I think about how impressive it was that my parents achieved what they did when they didn’t speak English, in a time when there were few resources available for Latinos, and those that existed were difficult to find. That’s why I want to help Latina families understand their child’s disability, and know their rights and the rights that protect their children. I want to inform them about the different programs and services available so they can feel confident in asking the necessary questions in order to best understand the next steps in their path. I am very proud of working at an organization like INCLUDEnyc that makes it its mission to provide quality information to Latinos, and who put a lot of effort into empowering Latina families, making our society more inclusive.

My work as a Latina professional is to instill a sense of confidence in Spanish speaking families. I want to give every family I work with the belief that they can overcome any difficulty because they have the tools, and they aren’t alone. Yes, we might have left our community behind in our native lands, but with the help of organizations like INCLUDEnyc and Latino professionals, we can create a new community for parents because we know how badly it’s needed. We need a more inclusive community, where our children’s dreams can become a reality. My wish for my son is to grow up healthy, both physically and emotionally. I wish for him a peaceful life, a full life regardless of the profession he chooses. I wish that he can grow up in a world without racism or discrimination because his parents are Latinos. I wish for a safe world for him. I wish this for all Latinos.

Written by Steffany Ruiz, Early Childhood Family Educator, INCLUDEnyc Staff Member