photo of Mai Chang

Mai is an advocate at The Arc Greater Twin Cities who has done a lot of work raising awareness about early childhood development, intervention and services. She first got interested in programming for children and youth after having great experiences with a nonprofit organization that provided youth programming. In 2008, she had her first son which continued to inspire her interest in childhood development. It is through her work with The Arc Greater Twin Cities that she has had the opportunity to delve even deeper. This grassroots organization supports the entire lifespan of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization is both active on the individual, family, community and legislative level. Now a mother of three, Mai continues to educate and advocate for other families to get assessed and receive childhood intervention services.

Mai spends each day differently. Some days she is taking education phone calls and providing consultation to families. Her cases in individual advocacy are often childhood related. She also spends her time out in the community providing resources, making connections, building relationships with people and organizations educating them about The Arc Greater Twin Cities’ services and the importance of early childhood programs, development, and early screening. She does this type of outreach in the general population as well as in the Hmong community. She also co-facilitates and collaborates with other school districts and organizations on two Hmong support groups for families who have children with special needs.

Much of her motivation lies in her strong desire to alleviate barriers for families with young children in receiving early services. As an advocate, she has seen how lack of education and resources about early childhood intervention can impact families and create more barriers for them later on. She makes the benefits of early identification and services for families with young children clear and points out that these services are free! But she still she sees families who have waited or even been told by a physician that they should “wait and see.” There is still much work to be done. “It is really those children and families who suffer and fall behind compared to families and children who have had the opportunities to get a head start. Every family is unique and their stories tell us that accessing appropriate systems are a hugely important factor in obtaining services.”

Mai gives excellent advice to services and systems trying to make change. Partnerships between The Arc Greater Twin Cities, Help Me Grow MN, Learn the Signs, Act Early and other organizations can better serve families. She says “multiple complex systems are hard for families to comprehend and the services are difficult to access and obtain. It is even harder when there is a cultural language barrier. If systems and agencies continue to work together, it will be the best way to alleviate barriers.” The Arc Greater Twin Cities is doing big things and making big changes and is open to creating opportunities with other professionals and organizations to promote education on early childhood development.

We are thankful for all the work that Mai has done in helping spread the word of early identification and access to early intervention for children in addition to her wisdom and insight. Thank you Mai for all that you do!