helping Chicago migrant kids
How One Chicagoan Helps Migrant Kids With Disabilities

Many families around the world are facing challenges in raising a child with disabilities. These hurdles are not just limited to financial constraints but also extend to social reclusion and psychological burdens. What makes the situation more stressful is having nowhere to turn to for help during times of need.

Oftentimes the only ones who understand their situation are families having similar situations. This is evident in the actions of Mary Otts-Rubenstein, a Chicago resident and mother to a child with disabilities.

Mary Otts-Rubenstein hospitality 

Mary Otts-Rubenstein has taken it upon herself to help over a dozen migrant families with children who have complex medical needs to enroll in CPS (Chicago Public Schools). She made the process smooth and timely by taking care of their children’s needs and even procuring wheelchairs when needed. As one mom put it, It is challenging for parents to let someone else hold their child, especially when the child has special medical needs.

Just the other day Yamile Perez, mother of 7-year-old Keinymar Avila with microcephaly and who has never been apart from her daughter’s side, had to attend a virtual meeting with Chicago Public Schools officials to discuss her daughter’s educational requirements. In the meantime Mary Otts-Rubenstein looked after Keinymar (Yamile Perez’s daughter). The age range of children under Mary Otts-Rubenstein care is 7-12.

Most of these children have severe disabilities, which have become a problem for their academic progress. They have endured dangerous journeys, including passing through jungles to reach the U.S. safely. It’s not the first time Mary is offering her help to the community. She has been leading efforts for over two months now, tirelessly stepping in where city officials have slumbered in identifying and providing adequate solutions for disabled migrants. Mary got involved in this after receiving a call one day from another volunteer who was already assisting these migrants, recognizing her expertise could be of great help.

Discrimination and prejudice due to their immigrant status

A statistical analysis done recently shows that children with severe disabilities born in the States have a limited access to quality education. However, families of migrant workers who have disabled children face even more challenging obstacles. These hurdles include language barriers and lack of adequate support services for their child’s disability. Moreover, these families often encounter discrimination and prejudice due to their immigrant status. One major hurdle these families face is navigating the intricate registration process in most schools, especially regarding IEPs.

Oftentimes, the process can be overwhelming because everything is presented in a manner that is difficult to understand. Consider the fact that most parents are not well acquainted with what entails an IEP thus making an already lengthy process even more cumbersome.

The managing attorney in the special education clinic at Equip for Equality emphasized that all special education students have the right to access education, regardless of their citizenship status.

She further explained that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act serves as protective legislation for these students, ensuring they receive necessary accommodations to support their learning.

Assistance plans for refugees with disabilities 

As for Otts-Rubenstein, the assistance plans for refugees with disabilities are just a starting point. After meeting Keinymar and the children at the hotel, her life has taken on a new path toward providing more comprehensive services. She has realized that being a care coordinator for medically fragile children and their families is her true calling.

The kids under her care have become a part of her own family, solidifying her dedication to this line of work. Otts-Rubenstein is a prime example of the support special needs parents require. There are organizations that aim to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by special needs children to help parents navigate through the complex educational system.

Illinois Autism Center is one such organization that spreads awareness about Autism and provides ABA treatment to individuals with Autism.