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In son’s diagnosis, a new worldview

Jan 17,2015
Hong Hyuk has been teaching students with special needs for the past eight years and currently works at Lakota Middle School in Federal Way, Washington State.

The 47-year-old who majored in computer engineering in the United States and previously worked for Microsoft says it was his son’s kindergarten teacher who changed the course of his life.

“When he was 5 years old, his teacher told me that he might have autism. As a parent, I felt guilty,” he said, referring to Hong Shin, now 17. “It was my colleagues who cheered me up, telling me that a disability is just a different way of living life and no one can be blamed for that.”

So Hong quit his job at Microsoft to become a special education teacher, an experience that opened his eyes.

He added that his now teenage son spent four days a week working part time in a retail store last year thanks to the shop’s manager, who allowed him the opportunity.

“The way students and parents treat handicapped students in the United States is completely different in Korea,” Hong said. “It’s impossible to imagine hanging a banner that says ‘No special education school’ in my front yard.”

In that regard, he believes his native country still has a lot to learn.

“In the States, it’s a social norm to be patient with the disabled, even if they take longer than others,” he said.

BY CHUN IN-SUNG [selee@joongang.co.kr]





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