Transcript of NCSET teleconference call held on August 13, 2003
Issues of Transition for Youth with Disabilities from Culturally
and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds
David Leake, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Center on Disability Studies
Weol Soon Kim-Rupnow, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Project Director NTAC, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Center on
Paul Leung, Ph.D., CRC Professor
University of North Texas
MS. JOHNSON: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome
to our teleconference.
I am Donna Johnson, and I’m one of the project coordinators
with the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition here
at the University of Minnesota. Today we are pleased to have Dr.
David Leake, Dr. Weol Soon Kim-Rupnow, and Dr. Paul Leung as our presenters.
Dr. David Leake was a Peace Corps volunteer and an English language
newspaper editor in Southeast Asia for about 10 years before coming
to Hawaii in 1985 to attend graduate school at the University of
Hawaii at Manoa.
He earned a master’s degree in public health and a Ph.D.
in anthropology conducting his dissertation research on how different
groups of people in a primarily native Hawaiian community view and
respond to troubled and troubling youth. He has been with the Center
on Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa for about
13 years, with a focus on research and evaluation expertise in the
areas of transition and child and adolescent mental health.
We also have Dr. Weol Soon Kim-Rupnow, who was born in Korea but did
her graduate work at the University of Hawaii. She is currently
a member of the faculty at the University of Hawaii Center on Disability
Studies and a Project Instructor of the National Technical Assistance
Center for Asian and Pacific Islanders with disabilities.
Her professional interests include technology applications for
academic behavioral improvement of students who are learning English
as a second language, as well as school-related professional training
And then finally, we have Dr. Paul Leung, who is currently a faculty
member at the University of North Texas. He has had previous academic
appointments at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, the University
of Illinois at Champaign, the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, and the University of Arizona. His research interests are
rehabilitation and diverse populations.
The format of today’s teleconference will be about a 45-minute
presentation with a question-and-answer period afterwards. We ask
that you hold your questions until after each of the presenters
is completed. Also, in order to make sure that everyone can hear
the conference presentation, we ask that you press your mute buttons
on your speakerphones while you’re listening to the presenters.
So, now I’ll turn it over to David Leake and he can start
DR. LEAKE: Aloha. I’m speaking from Hawaii, and I’m
going to focus on the issue of self-determination, which helps to
introduce and crystallize a lot of these issues in transition for
culturally and linguistically diverse students with disabilities.
Self-determination is basically control over one’s life
and choices. And according to one of the well-known people in the
field, Paul Wehman, self-determination is the critical difference
separating people with disabilities from those without disabilities.
Self-determination has been our focus in transition work for well
over a decade now. And it’s also been a big focus in other
fields, of course, like social work and public health, this idea
that people should have control over their own lives instead of
other people controlling them.
And in order to have self-determination, we could describe two
basic components. One would be capacity on the part of the individual
in terms of attitudes, skills, and knowledge. So, of course, different
cultural groups would have different attitudes about these kinds
of issues. The second part would be opportunity. That is, real choices
are available and there is not coercion or constraint on the person.
With those two things in mind, if we look at how self-determination
is presented, typically it’s associated with what we would
call individualistic values or personal characteristics. So, a self-determined
person would be considered to be autonomous, empowered, independent,
self-competent, self-directed, able to self-express, self-regulate,
and those kinds of terms.
However, many of our culturally and linguistically diverse populations
tend to have what’s called a more collectivist or interdependent
orientation to life. And that means valuing more contribution to
the group and – well, if we look at the idea of self reliance
in our typical American cultural, a self-reliant person can take
care of himself or herself and stay true to their own values and
Maybe in a collectivist group, self-reliance would be more linked
to ideas and actions that advance the goals of the group and less
to not being a burden that the individual would place on a group.
And another aspect of a collectivist – so-called collectivist
orientation is often in a way taking on the family responsibility,
that the family should be responsible for a person with a disability.
And families might see themselves as long-term protectors and caring
for the person with a disability.
And for the ideas of maximizing the independence and self-reliance
of the person, these may not be that congruent with their own beliefs.
So, for example, a lot of transition planning from the perspective
of self-determination is oriented to independent living.
This comes up a lot in our culturally and linguistically diverse
groups. Examples can be given, for example here in Hawaii, we typically
often have three or four generations living in a household, so independent
living isn’t really an issue. Or on an American Indian reservation,
there’s a similar situation. One way to also look at this
issue is if you look at expectations of what a child is and an adult
is, a child will tend to be viewed as immature and an adult will,
of course, have to be mature in order to be an adult. Children are
known to be self-centered. Adults should be not so self-centered,
more oriented to others, takes responsibility for others to some
extent. A key point is children are known to be dependent. So, what
about an adult? In our Western or American culture, moving from
dependence to independence is the ideal. But in the so-called collectivist
groups the ideal is moving from being dependent to interdependent,
where people are supporting each other.
And these issues are addressed very well in an article I found
called “Self-determination from a Pacific Perspective”
by a couple of people here at the University of Hawaii, Patricia
Ewalt and Noreen Mokuau. And they’re in the School of Social
Work. But the issues are the same. So, one point they made is that
– I talked before about the capacity and opportunity for self-determination,
those two aspects you have to have. However, both of these are not
likely to be present in conditions of poverty.
So, the point is that to some extent, self-determination and independence
is somewhat of a luxury, which is allowed by an affluent society,
whereas interdependence is required for survival in conditions of
scarcity or threat. So, of course, culturally and linguistically
diverse groups tend to be in the lower socioeconomic strata in our
society at the moment. And so, interdependence is, sort of, a survival
mechanism to some extent. And we hear this about many of these groups
that they have all these family connections and people helping each
And if we think back to the barn raising days in the 1800’s
of the American West where people get together and help each other
do their buildings, but now, of course, we’re richer, affluent.
You would go out and hire somebody you probably don’t know
to build your house or you buy one that’s already built. One
quote from this article that captures a lot of these concerns of
what an individual or a person is: “The person is not an individual
in our Western sense of the term,” (speaking of Pacific Islanders).
“The person is instead a locus of shared biographies, personal
histories of people’s relationships with other people and
with other things. The relationship defines the person, not vice-versa.”
So, on this basis many Western professionals don’t understand
that contributing to the group’s well being could be integral
to self-determination for the person from a collectivist group where
contributing to the group’s well being is a major indicator
of maturity. So, self-determination may include fulfilling group
obligations, not necessarily ridding oneself of them.
And finally, a quote: “As paradoxical as it may seem from
an individualistic perspective, self directedness may require a
strengthening rather than a dissolution of the person’s connection
with and commitment for the group.”
And so, when we talk about transition, as always this concept of
individualization, it is critical. That is working with the family
and the person and not assuming that independent living, for example,
would be a primary goal for them. So, it’s needed to explore
all these different cultural issues that might arise. Individualization
is a real key as it’s always been stressed in this field,
and exploring these cultural issues would be a critical part of
working in an individualized manner.
So, I think I’ll stop at that point and hopefully we can
discuss some questions at the end.
MS. JOHNSON: OK. We’ll turn it over to Dr. Leung.
DR. LEUNG: OK, thank you. Hello. First, let me just thank everyone
for letting me have the opportunity of sharing a few of my thoughts.
I had indicated earlier to someone – I forgot, who was it
– I think it was Megan – that maybe I wasn’t the
best to participate. I’m not really involved in a lot of transition
work, though I think some of the things that I deal with in rehabilitation
may be somewhat similar.
First of all, I think what David has done is truly on target.
And I think the same issues arise in terms of understanding that
some of the way that we – or some of the language that we
use or lexicon that we use in Special Education and in rehabilitation
such as dependants determination, choice, and so on may be interpreted
a bit differently in some of these different cultures. Specifically,
the groups that I want to spend a few minutes on are Asian Americans
and Pacific Islanders.
But before I actually get into some of that – and I’ll
try to get this through – is that I know that for those who
work in this area, it’s never easy. And I think it’s
always a difficult thing to try to take into consideration multiple
variables when you’re working with an individual with a family
and especially with a group that may be somewhat different than
I think we need to acknowledge that and at the same time understand
that we have to be very careful that we don’t take a little
knowledge and translate them and move that into further stereotype
of individuals and peoples that we understand that there are lots
of things that we have to take into account, that there is no easy
answer to this whole thing. And I think this is especially true
for groups that we have minimal knowledge of sometimes and which
we don’t get a lot of exposure to. I live in North Texas,
as you probably know, not in Hawaii or California. The whole group
of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, I think we need to understand
is not a homogeneous group. In some ways, it’s not a group
that is a shared language. It certainly doesn’t have a shared
And I think that that’s important to realize and to understand
I when we’re working with Asian Pacific Islanders, that we
can really be talking about East Asians that cover some of the groups
that maybe we’re more familiar with, the Chinese, the Japanese
but also South Asians, some Indians, Pakistanis, Southeast Asians,
more immigrants who came recently, Cambodia, Vietnamese, Thailand,
et cetera. All of these groups don’t have a shared history.
They don’t have a shared language. I think each of them have
unique kinds of things. And at times, they, in terms of their history,
may have been natural enemies rather than friends. I think we need
to understand that there isn’t any one group that we can talk
about in terms of being Asian American or Pacific Islanders (Pacific
Islanders, who as most of you know, are comprised of some 20 different
other groups, as well).
We need to keep those kinds of things in mind. And then the concept
that David presented, the idea that many of these groups generally
look at things from a collectivistic orientation. And that is in
contrast, I think to the more American value of independence and
where you determine what you want. This is very important in terms
of understanding some of the Asian American Pacific Islanders cultures,
that we have to be very much aware of the family and the influences
of family in terms of decision making, that we don’t ignore
the family and just focus on the individual.
We also have to remember that the perspective on disability varies
from group to group. Sometimes I think this is not any different
than what maybe occurs in other cultures beyond, I guess, Asian
American Pacific Islanders, but for the most part, disability is
not seen in a positive way. Though, at the same time, I have to
emphasize that that doesn’t mean that families don’t
love their child or their person that lives in the family who has
a disability. They do.
And very often this shows up in terms of the kinds of care and
sometimes maybe overprotection that occurs when someone has a disability
in the family. But at the same time, it is seen I think as reflecting
negatively on the family.
There is a tendency even now in many families who are of Asian
origin to keep their child – to keep the person with disability
maybe out of the limelight and not perhaps allow he or she to achieve
perhaps to their potential in the same way that maybe the majority
of society would deem as being a way to deal with that particular
individual. But again, there’s a lot of variation in these
perspective. They depend on the ethnicity and involved with that
would be issues of religion, issues of culture of the particular
society or the country that the individual may have come from, issues
of acculturation, how long that the family has been in the United
States. There could be several generations in which maybe they have
taken on many of the cultural attributes of the majority of society.
But it could be also in terms of being a very fairly recent immigrant
and trying to bounce between two cultures. It could be in terms
of the reasons for immigration. I think that makes a great deal
of difference sometimes in terms of how the particular family or
individual may see the helping individual, whether it is in transition
or whether it is in rehabilitation.
The family that has come from a country recently where government
is not something to be trusted would have a hard time sometimes
dealing with even school officials, counselors, and others who they
perceive perhaps to have, at least in the past, a negative influence
on the family. I think that, again, the history of family roles
may be another area. Again this relates to some of the religious
issues. But I think that even a family that may not necessarily
adhere to a particular religion, from Asian, from China, for example,
they still may adhere to some of the confusion roles of responsibility.
And I think understanding some of these may assist in the process
of helping an individual who has a disability in their family whether
it be a child, whether it be a teenage, adolescent or an individual
who is trying to be reunited in terms of the community after an
accident or an illness.
The other I think I’ll just mention here is again there
certainly are many pressures that are put on an individual of Asian
background. We often associate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,
especially Asian Americans, to value education highly. Pressures
on an individual who may learn differently is very great. And I
think that we need to understand some of those pressures in terms
of understanding that individual and the family unit and how we
can deal with that if we’re going to have a successful kind
of transition between school and work or higher education. Again
in spite of all these various kinds of things, I think I still want
to come back to the idea that there are individual differences within
each one. And while we may pick out examples, we have to be very,
very careful in terms of our assessment so that we don’t just
assume when we go in with an idea about what’s going on with
a particular individual and what’s happening in their life
and their family.
A family who lives – in Dallas, Texas, may be quite different
from a family who lives in a community such as Monterey Park in
Los Angeles, California, where the majority of the people may be
of Asian background or a Chinese background where a language from
their country of origin is almost always spoken in those communities.
Whereas in Dallas, the families’ time they may have together
is a luxury. They may be isolated during the week. They may only
come together at certain occasions. So, even though we have families
that have immigrated here who live in the United States in different
parts, that context is an important context which we need to understand
if we are to work in concert and in partnership rather than imposing
the kinds of things sometimes we’re so easy to do.
And with that, I think I’ll just go ahead and stop. I know
that I’ve gone very quickly through a lot of things. And hopefully,
this will give a brief introduction to the idea that Asian American
and Pacific Islanders are not homogeneous. They’re very, very
much a heterogeneous group. There’s a lot of diversity within
that perhaps even exceeds the diversity outside of these groups.
So, I just want to again thank you for the opportunity of sharing
a couple of my thoughts.
MS. JOHNSON: Thank you, Dr. Leung. Now, we’ll turn it over
to Weol Soon Kim-Rupnow and hear her thoughts.
DR. KIM-RUPNOW: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you
all today. And I think also that Paul and Dave set a great tone
for me to do my presentation. What I’d like to talk about
today is nothing new, but based on what I learned as a culturally
and linguistically diverse person myself. I was born in Korea and
I got married to a person from Germany and also I live in Hawaii
in a multicultural setting.
And I can give you a lot of practical tips on how to provide culturally
competent services to those persons who have culturally and linguistically
diverse backgrounds. And let me start with the first tip. Because
of my accent, you maybe don’t understand me– Please
ask me questions, if you don’t understand.
But the tip when you ask questions in a manner sensitive to an
English as a second language speaker is, instead of asking directly
“What did you say.” or “Can you say that again?”,
you could say, “Oh, do you mean by so and so?” You could
paraphrase what you just heard so that I can understand the level
of your understanding of what I said and elaborate on what you didn’t
The principle recommendation for service providers I’d like
to talk about is the acronym LOVEE – Love and then at the
end E. So, can you guess what the elements are? I’d like to
have my presentation to be interactive. So, can you guess what L
MS. JOHNSON: I’m going to guess “Listen.”
DR. KIM-RUPNOW: Yes. Listen. Listening is very important, especially
empathetic listening. It’s easy to say listen but are you
really willing to change your paradigm, the way you view the world
as a result of listening? When you listen to someone from different
cultural backgrounds, ask yourself if you can you place yourself
in your student’s shoes or your customer’s shoes? It
really takes an effort on your part and you have to know about your
strengths and also your prejudice or stereotyping of different cultures.
So, first you have to evaluate yourself regarding any previous stereotype
judgments you may have and then you are ready to listen. Also, be
ready to learn from your students or clients about their own unique
needs, barriers and attitudes. But, you may still have difficulty
when you want to listen if your student speaks a different language.
What would you do? Is there anybody can give an answer?
This leads to the next letter of the acronym, the letter “O.”
What would you do if you could not speak the language of the student
or your client? The letter “O” stands for observe. You
observe their facial expressions, body language, the way they interact
with other people.
You can also be resourceful in bringing in a cultural broker who
is bilingual and bicultural. Some people can speak two languages
but a person who doesn’t understand the culture is not a good
cultural broker. Anybody can learn the language in the classroom
setting, but to be an effective cultural broker, the person has
to know your client’s culture and how to communicate appropriately.
So, try to bring in a cultural broker who can both translate the
language and interpret the culture’s values. And remember
to extend your empathetic listening skills to the cultural broker
The next letter in the acronym is “V.” Can you guess
what the V stands for? V stands for “verify.” Verify
the information you learn from your students and verify the information
you get from your cultural brokers.
And sometimes you also have to check different sources of information,
verify what you learn from books and also learn from your neighbors
and colleagues. And that will help you to broaden your perspective
and keep your mind open to be fair to all.
The next letter is “E.” Can you guess what the E stands
MS. JOHNSON: Evaluate?
DR. KIM-RUPNOW: Evaluate. That’s good! Evaluate or also
educate the student. Because your students or your customers, who
may have come from a minority or different culture, don’t
understand what’s required, for example, because today’s
topic is transitioning, what’s required documents during the
For example, they usually don’t know what an IEP requires
or who needs to be involved in transition planning, starting at
the age of 14. So, you must explain and educate them about what’s
And also in America, you will need to be very assertive about what
you really want. And so, help them to voice their concerns, wants
and needs clearly and go with them to their school and other settings
to help them clarify their needs, wants and goals.
Moving on to last letter of the acronym, E, empower your student.
Empowering is part of education. Also, one person mentioned E as
evaluate -- good! Evaluation is part of the empowering process for
a student. It also helps them have ownership on their own plan.
Once you establish rapport and trust with the students, you may
need to explain their rights and responsibilities in the special
education and vocational rehabilitation system and empower them
to be active participants by teaching the values of self-determination
and assertiveness. It might not be easy at first to empower and
establish a partner relationship with consumers from minority cultures
because they might be accustomed to a hierarchical relationship.
But, if you keep practicing LOVEE with them, eventually it will
Are there any other questions?
MS. JOHNSON: I have a question for you, Soon Kim. This is Donna.
Do you have any books or articles that you would recommend to the
audience to read further on ways to be effective with students from
culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds?
DR. KIM-RUPNOW: Yes, that’s a good question. Actually I’m
an author of a monograph. There is a monograph series developed
by CIRRIE, which stands for Centers for International Rehabilitation
Research Information and Exchange – located at the University
of New York at Buffalo.
They developed an 11-volume monograph series entitled Rehabilitation
Provider’s Guide to Cultures of the Foreign-Born how to provide
effective services. Their Web site is http://cirrie.buffalo.edu/monograph.
They have a really good cultural monograph series on the top 10
countries of immigrant population in the United States. The monographs
are a good starting point for you to learn ways to be effective
with those students from diverse cultural backgrounds.
MS. JOHNSON: We’ll verify that Web site with you and then
post it on the NCSET Web site so the listeners can log on to that.
Does anyone else have a question for any of the panelists? And
if you do, before you start asking the question, we ask that you
give us your name and the state that you’re calling from.
So, are there any questions for the panelists?
MS. BARKIN: Hi. This is Patty Barkin from the Western Regional
Resource Center, and I have a question for David. When you work
with the jurisdictions in the Pacific and there are data questions
about minority populations, how do you work with the part that is
the majority population in data kinds of questions? You know, what
have you done – do you work specifically with the school district?
DR. LEAKE: Well, our disability studies have
a number of projects that extend into the Pacific. And...
MS. BARKIN: So, are you actually working on the
islands or in the territories and the freely associated states?
DR. LEAKE: Personally I don’t. But we have a number of staff
members who do, in Guam and Western Samoa and most of the islands
here. So, I do hear a lot from them about these differences and
a lot of family issues that come up.
MS. BARKIN: Sure. Yes. It’s just interesting the way the
data has to be compiled. And what you were speaking about was what
is considered by our reporting systems as minority populations.
It wasn’t just about the cultural awareness, but about reporting.
DR. LEAKE: Are you referring to the combination of Asians and
MS. BARKIN: Right, which of course, there’s not a minority
population in the Pacific.
DR. LEAKE: Right. Yes, it’s very hard to get the data broken
out for the specific Pacific Islanders and they tend to have generally
poor outcomes compared to the Asian population. So, when you see
the data, you have to take into consideration that these two populations
are sort of counterbalancing each other, But the number of Pacific
Islanders is, I guess, too small for them to break it out.
MR. CHUNG: Hi. My name is Dave Chung. I’m with the Center
for Minority Veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs.
Is any of your data linked to studies with pockets of Asian American
Pacific Islanders in the Midwest, South Central states, anything
east of California where they have pockets like Iowa, Chicago, Detroit,
large metropolitan areas like that where they have Asian American
Pacific Islanders that are living there and a lot of them are immigrants?
DR. LEUNG: Are you asking about whether there’s data available
or – I mean, in terms of breakdown of groups or...
MR. CHUNG: Right. Other than the Pacific Rim or the West Coast,
anything east of California where they do have large pockets of
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders?
DR. LEUNG: It depends on what information you’re looking
for. You know, you can obviously locate data on specific areas,
both census and some of the other demographic kinds of things. One
is the “Face of Asian Pacific American”, which is a
publication of “Asian Week” and the UCLA Asian American
It just came out this last year and it’s called the “Face
of Asian Pacific American: Numbers, diversity, and change in the
21st Century.” It does a pretty good job of breaking down
some of the issues related to Asian Pacific Americans’ demography.
It has sections on the various ethnic groups, geography, and then
the last section on culture in society, including politics on health
and so on. I think that’s an excellent source if you’re
interested in some general kinds of information on Asian Pacific
Americans. It was published this year, 2003.
MR. CHUNG: Oh, that’s great. It’s pretty well up to
DR. LEUNG: Yes. And I think it does a good job. And I think your
point is well taken, but I think if you count six states, about
90 percent of the APA population is located in those states. I think
it’s California, Texas, New York, Illinois. I think Hawaii
was probably the other one.
DR. KIM-RUPNOW: This is Soon. And I think also I can direct you
to our Web site, National Technical Assistance Center or NTAC. It
We accumulated a lot of resources and publications by our center.
So, there is a lot of AAPI with disability information and statistics
you can find there.
And also I found the CIRRIE Web site again –CIRRIE is an
acronym for Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information
and Exchange. The Web site is http://www.cirrie.buffalo.edu.
MS. JOHNSON: And we will post both of those Web
sites to the NCSET Web site, as well. Does anyone else have a question
for any of the panelists? If there are no further questions, we’d
like to thank our presenters for sharing this valuable information
Our next teleconference is scheduled for Wednesday, September
24th, at one o’clock Central Time. Our presenters will be
Dr. Al Phelps and Dr. Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell from the Research Institute
on Secondary Education Reform for Youth with Disabilities at the
University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Lai, E . & D. arguelles (eds) (2003) The New Face of Asian Pacific
America Asia Week and UCLA Asian American Studies Ctr, Asia Week,
809 Sacramento St. San Francisco, CA 94108
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