Our Stories

How we began

Our History

CIDA started as a small family support group that first gathered at a community conference in 2013. These families were dealing with various problems relating to family support, advocacy, and a lack of service information due to language and cultural barriers within immigrant communities in New York. In response to these issues, Dr. Young Seh Bae, the CIDA founder, and several other parents initiated free special education service workshops, family events and support meetings in collaboration with the local organizations. In the process, many parent members expressed the urgent needs for preparing to prepare post-secondary life and inclusion opportunities for their children with disabilities. As such, CIDA, a grassroots organization, was officially incorporated in 2016, focusing on family support and workforce development for individuals with disabilities.

Hear from Our Families

Inclusion is Power

Korean-American young adults with disabilities still face many obstacles, such as being included in their community. In this video, three young adults with disabilities, their siblings, staff and the local legislatures speak out on why it is important to include these young men and women in our work place and community.

Finding My Path: A Journey to Self-Determination

This video shows Korean-American young adults with disabilities building their dreams and their future goals through Self-Determination. Daun Kim was a participant of the Self-Determination Academy sponsored by CIDA. She shares her journey of finding a path to gain self-competence in order to build her career goals.

Why we started CIDA

What we pursue has been very clear: the self-determined, included and independent lives of our children.

CIDA’s Worker Co-op

Devin Bae, 17 year old, talks about his brother with autism, his hope for the future and the community.

Dr. Young Seh Bae, Executive Director is on TIM (Korean Language)

“Choices and Opportunities.” Dr. Bae shared a story of her children and self-determination at the Open Forum.

Dr. Yoonju Lee, Associate Professor of CUNY is on TIM (Korean)

“Stereotype and Prejudice.” Dr. Lee shared her experiences as a person with a disability, and the stigma situated in visible and invisible disabilities.

Writing on the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Blog

Another Journey

Just like any other school day, Eugene, my son with autism, left on the bus this morning to go to a day program provided by our school district. For the last 20 years, he and I wait for the bus by sitting on our front porch. As he steps on the bus, he shouts at me with his happy high-pitched voice, “Bye Mom!” This is our ritual to begin each new day, to meet that day’s challenges, emotions, promises, and hopes.

In June this year, he will age out from the district program. I cannot help being emotional whenever I think about his first day of preschool and the journey that Eugene and our family have been on since then. On that day, I cried in the car for two hours after separating from my miserable, crying child.

Since that first day, school has been a challenging place for both Eugene and me. While Eugene was learning the alphabet and phonics, I studied the never-ending list of special education acronyms.

Just like other special education moms in this world, when my child cried about his school work, I wept on my steering wheel, but when he was happy in school, I felt like I had the world on a string. At times, figuring out how to navigate the world of special education for our son with autism while struggling with his atypical behaviors seemed like a brutal mission for a family like us, and we often felt we were not understood, not just because of our heavy Korean accents

However, our fundamental concern has not changed in these 20 years, and that is to help our son reach the final destination for his journey—Eugene being able to live an independent and inclusive life in the community. Of course, this is the same concern shared by thousands of moms and dads who have children with disabilities.

As a family we have had to adjust the sails of our ship quite a lot to reach this destination. We had to get past phrases like “below average range” or “socially maladjusted” since they were not helpful in steering the path for our son. As a family, we now see more clearly the incredible strengths and positive qualities of a young man who is able to say proudly “I am a person with autism.” We have learned that it is more helpful for us to make sure that Eugene is in the center of all service plans than putting systems first and having him fit around these systems. Because of putting Eugene at the center, we have become more efficient in figuring out how to change the world around us and finding the resources we and Eugene need to reach our goal. As Eugene grew, our family grew too and our minds opened up to the new experiences that our son brought us.

I am not completely positive about Eugene’s future in the community. I see and feel the gaps between how my family and how society see the possibility of Eugene becoming a “successful” member of the community, and how we define success.

Many people still have a difficult time moving away from the stereotype that measures people with autism and other developmental disabilities as a social cost. However, I also believe that our society is moving in a better direction, becoming more able to envision a person with a disability as a valuable asset.

We have witnessed the notably increased capacity of our schools and workplaces to accommodate individuals with disabilities since the first form of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act became law in 1975. These accomplishments were not possible without the sacrifices and efforts of so many parents, educators, and leaders of this country. Today, their legacy continues through the next generation of families, educators, and leaders, and it only expands as we as a family sail toward the final destination of our journey.

The next three months will be an interesting time for our family. Frankly, it makes me nervous thinking that Eugene will no longer be in the classroom. There will be no more IEP meetings to attend and no school buses to pick him up.

Eugene and our family know that this is a start of the next stage of journey. However, this time, Eugene will be the captain of the ship, steering us toward that goal of independence and community inclusion. This time, I am not crying; I will take a deep breath to prepare myself for another thrilling sea of possibilities and opportunities.

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