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Posts Tagged ‘stigma’

작가: 송서원

내 생각에, 나는 꽤 평범한 한국의 대학생이지만, 내 삶을 그리 일반적이지 않게 만드는 것이 있다. 바로 나보다 2살 많은 자폐성 장애인인 오빠이다. 좀 낯설게 들릴 수도 있겠지만, 적어도 한국에서 자폐성 장애인의 형제자매로서의 삶은 다른 사람들의 그것과는 상당한 차이가 있다고 본다.

Seowon Song

Seowon Song

2009년 7월의 어느 여름 날, 나는 한국 자폐인 사랑협회(ASK)에서 주최하는 여름 캠프에 참가하게 되었다. 많은 장애 아동과 그 가족이 캠프에 참가했고, 프로그램들은 장애 아동, 부모, 그리고 그 형제자매들을 대상으로 나눠져 있었다. 그 캠프에서 나는 처음으로 비슷한 경험을 가진 비장애 형제들을 만날 수 있었다. 몇몇은 그들의 가족, 특히 그들의 장애 형제들에 대해 말하는 것이 낯설어 보였기 때문에 그 중 가장 나이가 많았던 나는 내 이야기를 먼저 나누며 그 친구들이 자유롭게 얘기할 수 있는 분위기를 만들었다. 깊은 공감을 나타내며 그들이 이야기를 듣고 있을 때, 머뭇거리던 한 꼬마 아이가 나에게 물었다.

“어떻게 그렇게 잘 이해해요?”

그 순간, 처음으로 비장애 형제들이 서로의 경험을 나누고 공감할 수 있는 자조 모임이 필요하다는 것을 깨닫고, 언젠가 한국에 비장애 형제 자조모임을 만들겠다는 결심을 했다.

2016년 1월 초, 나는 내 또래의 비장애 형제 4명을 만났다. 만났던 첫 날, 우리는 얘기하느라 시간이 가는 줄 몰랐고 서로에게 꽤 많은 공통점이 있다는 것을 깨달았다. 각자 형제들의 장애와 증상은 다르지만, 우리는 비슷한 경험과, 걱정과, 생각을 가지고 있었다. 어렸을 때, 가족 내에서 혹은 부모에게서 소외당했다고, 심지어는 무시당했다고 느낀 적이 있었고, 장애 형제들에 대해 이해할 수 없는 부분들이 많았지만 누구에게도 물어볼 수 없었다. 형제와, 그들의 장애와, 부모님에게 분노를 느끼기도 했었고 결국 그 분노가 자기 자신을 향하기도 했다. 또, 나를 포함한 몇몇은 인정 받고 싶은 욕구를 강하게 느끼며 다른 사람들에게 사랑 받기 위해 기대를 충족시키고 뛰어넘으려는 경향을 보였다. 우리의 삶에 대해 얘기하면서, 우리는 “나는”이라는 이름으로 한국의 첫 번째 비장애 형제 자조모임을 만들자고 결심했다.

“나는”이 시작된 후, 다른 비장애 형제들과의 많은 모임을 가졌고, 그 모임에서 우리는 장애 형제와 부모, 그리고 특히 자신에 대해 자유롭게 얘기할 수 있었다. 모임을 통해 많은 이야기들을 모아 2018년 3월 우리의 이야기를 담은 책을 출판하기도 했다. “나는”을 통해 책 출판 이외에도 많은 목표들을 이룰 수 있었다. 첫째로, 한국에는 장애인 당사자들을 위한 관심과 담론 자체가 부족하기 때문에 장애인의 가족, 특히 그들의 형제들에 대한 관심 또한 기대하기 힘든데, “나는”을 통해 장애인의 형제 자매의 존재를 인식시킬 수 있었다. 또한, 살면서 처음으로 장애 형제나 부모가 아닌 우리 자신에 대해 더 많은 관심을 가질 수 있었다. 그 무엇보다 우리 자신에게 집중 하는 것은 살면서 느껴왔던, 그리고 느끼고 있는 수많은 감정들을 마주하고 인정함으로써 비장애 형제로서의 소외감과 불안 등을 해소하는 데 도움이 되었다.

하지만 가장 크게 이룬 것은 바로 우리가 혼자가 아니라는 점을 깨달았다는 점이다. 내 경우, 자폐성 장애인의 동생으로서 분노와 공포, 죄책감을 나 혼자만 느끼고 있는 건 아닐까 생각했고, 아무도 나를 이해하지도, 나에게 공감하지도 않을까봐 걱정했다. 하지만, “나는”을 결성하고 다른 비장애 형제들을 만나면서 내가 혼자가 아니라는 사실을 깨달았다. 또, ‘내가 혼자가 아니라는 사실’을 깨달은 것은 비단 나뿐만이 아니었다. 우리는 다른 많은 비장애 형제들과 같이, “함께”하는 힘으로 좀 더 성숙하기 위한 한 발을 내딛는다.

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By Seowon Song

In my opinion, I am a quite ordinary university student in South Korea. However, there is a feature that has made my life unusual: my older brother. He is two years older than me, and has autism. This may sound strange, but at least in South Korea, living as a sibling of an autistic person is considerably different from others.

Seowon Song

Seowon Song

A summer day of July 2009, I had a chance to participate a summer camp held by Autism Society Korea (ASK). In the camp, there were many families of children with special needs, and the programs were divided into three parts; for the children, for the parents, and for the siblings. That was the first time for me to meet other children who had had similar experience being siblings without disabilities. Some of them seemed to be unfamiliar with talking about their family members, especially their brothers and sisters. I was the oldest among them, so I shared my story and tried to make them feel free to talk about their experience. When I listened to them and expressed my empathy, a little boy hesitated for a moment and asked me a question.

“How can you understand me that well?”

That was the first moment that I realized the necessity of supporting groups for siblings where they could share their experience and empathize with one another. Also, I made my mind to make a sibling supporting group in South Korea someday.

In the beginning of January 2016, I met four other siblings of my age. On the first day we met, we even lost track of time talking about our lives and realized that we had quite a few things in common. Even though our siblings with special needs had different symptoms and aspects in detail, we had similar experience, concerns, and thoughts. When we were children, we had felt left out in our families or from our parents, and even felt ignored by them. There were a lot of things that we couldn’t understand about our brothers and sisters, but there was almost no one whom we could ask. Some of us used to feel resentment toward our siblings themselves, the disabilities of our siblings, and parents, which led us to feel guilty about the anger. Some people, including me, had a tendency to strongly desire to be acknowledged and used to tried hard to exceed expectations from others to be loved. Talking about our lives, we decided to form the first sibling supporting group in South Korea, and named it as “Nanun,” which means “It’s about me.”

From the beginning, we have had dozens of meetings with other siblings. In the meetings, they felt free to talk about their brothers and sisters, parents, and especially themselves. Having gathered diverse episodes from those meetings, finally, we published a book containing our stories in March 2018. Not only did we get a success in the publication, but we also achieve a lot of things in “Nanun.” Firstly, there is a lack of attention to people with disabilities in South Korea, so it’s hard to expect concerns for their family members, especially the siblings. We made it possible for people to realize the existence of siblings of people with special needs. Additionally, for the first time in our lives, we had a chance to be more concerned with ourselves, not the brothers and sisters or parents. We tried to concentrate on ourselves, face and admit the various emotions. It helped us to relieve our anxiety or alienation as siblings without disabilities.

But the most important thing that we fulfilled was to recognize that we are not alone. In my case, I had felt alone and strange because I had thought that I might be the only one who had anger, fears, and guilt being a sister of an autistic person. I was afraid that there might be no one that understand me and empathize with me. However, forming the supporting group and meeting siblings, I finally realized that I was not the only one. Also, I am not the only one who does not feel alone anymore. Standing with many other siblings, we understand the power of being together and make a next step to be mature.

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By Esther Jou

One of the more radical changes to the autism classification within the DSM-5 was the elimination of the category “Asperger’s Disorder” and inclusion of those who would have met that criteria under the name “autism spectrum disorder”.  Some families of individuals with Asperger’s and those diagnosed with Asperger’s opposed this change for fear that being a member of the ‘autism’ group would force them to live with a more stigmatized label and subjugate them to further social and academic pressures.  In order to address whether this was the case, researchers designed studies to understand the public perception of the word “autism” vs.  “Asperger’s”.  Coincidentally, two studies were published this week which examined the impact of clinical labels on stigma and treatment attitudes. Does an autism spectrum disorder label conjure a more unpleasant disposition when compared to an Asperger’s Disorder label? These studies also asked whether there was a difference in peer responses to overt ASD behaviors if a clinical label was disclosed.

The first report, authored by Ohan et al., examined the responses of 465 adults who were presented with a vignette of a 9 year old who displayed symptoms characteristic of someone who would have received a diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder. Participants were then asked to rate levels of discomfort, compassion, and irritation towards the child based on a definition of stigma that included: negative beliefs (stereotypes), emotions (prejudice), and behaviours (discrimination). Statistical analyses showed stigma ratings were not dependent on the clinical label – Asperger’s or ASD.  Post hoc tests also revealed participants were less likely to seek out medical treatment for the vignette child if they were unaware of any label due to the assumption that treatment would be ineffective for an undiagnosed condition.

Another study conducted in the UK, authored by Brosnan and Mills, analyzed the responses of 120 college students to two male vignettes, both exhibiting behavior characteristic of an individual with Asperger’s Disorder. Participants were informed that one of them had a clinical disorder (AS, ASD, or schizophrenia) while in the control scenario, they were told that the individual was a typical university student above average intelligence. More positive responses were found towards the clinical disorder vignette and like the first study, the type of clinical label used did not influence the student’s response.

Due to stigma surrounding mental disorders, the name of the clinical diagnosis itself can be powerful enough to deter an individual from seeking or completing treatment. Yet these studies indicate a changing attitude towards mental health, one that encourages people to be more open about an ASD diagnosis. However, it is also important to note that both studies set out to collect data from societies that were more willing to accept, even celebrate, differences and thus dedicate research and education to raising awareness about mental health problems. What happens if we take a look at the responses of cultures who have not accepted the term  “autism” let alone the concept of mental health? How can we build on those existing foundations to foster inclusion for the autism community?

Esther Jou Summer Community Relations intern and University of Pennsylvania student reflects on the issue of stigma surrounding an autism diagnosis

Esther Jou
Summer Community Relations intern and University of Pennsylvania student reflects on the issue of stigma surrounding an autism diagnosis

Sources:

  1. Ohan JL, Ellefson S, Corrigan PW. Brief Report: The Impact of Changing from DSM-IV ‘Asperger’s’ to DSM-5 ‘Autistic Spectrum Disorder’ Diagnostic Labels on Stigma and Treatment Attitudes. Journal of autism and developmental disorders. June 5 2015; doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2485-7
  2. Brosnan M, Mills E. The effect of diagnostic labels on the affective responses of college students towards peers with ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ and ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’. Autism. June 8, 2015; doi: 10.1177/1362361315586721

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