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Finding the Translation Part 2

Finding the Translation: Part Two, From English to Hmong continued from Part One

I don’t remember exactly where I got the Hmong translations of the Autism characteristics with the signs & symptoms from, but I was able to find a good one online. I’m pretty sure they were from an online source document from the state of Minnesota, either through the education system or the CDC. It had detailed descriptions written in Hmong and the other documents had cartoon drawings with the content. There is a large population of the Hmong in the Minnesota and California area which probably explains more available readings from there. Plus, along with my research, I found some very descriptive studies from students writing for their doctorates and the students were Hmong too. Big shout-out to them, whoever you may be!

The day came and so with that I retaught myself how to re-read Hmong in 20 minutes so if needed I would be able to read off it. I used to be able to read it fluently, but when you don’t use it, you lose it. You see, Hmong doesn’t have its’ own unique writing, letters, or alphabet. They use the Western English alphabet which was brought on when missionaries came to teach religion. Each letter has its own unique enunciation. There’s a lot of musical vocal and breathing technique when you talk in Hmong and so the letters are placed in such a way so you know how the word starts and ends. For example, I love you into Hmong is kuv hlub koj, pronounced koo loo kaw. I still have a hard time with it and have to refer to the words I do know to remember how to say it.


My first tell was to the paternal grandparents, my mother-in-law. I read off the description from the handy documents I found, but I couldn’t read my mother-in-law’s face to see if she understood what I was telling her. My mother-in-law has the tendency to find humor during serious conversations or she tries to enlighten the mood when she feels confronted. Even though that wasn’t the case or how I wanted her to feel, I just wanted to get my point across. Everything was said and then I continued to tell her of the therapy that I was seeking for my son and that he would be starting it soon. She agreed and told me, it is your child and if you feel that is best, then you do it. I know it sounds a little harsh when translated to English, but she did say it in Hmong with an open heart. However, in the time of the conversation, she did make it a point to say that there’s probably nothing wrong and maybe he’ll grow out of it. Hmong people say they “tsi txawj has lug” which is “doesn’t know how to talk,” so maybe she did know what I was referring to when I was telling her about what Autism was.

Unfortunately, my father-in-law was away attending a funeral, but prior to arriving, I decided to post our about my son’s ASD diagnosis to a private family page we have. My sister-in-law, who at the time was with my father-in-law, graciously passed along the message about my son’s diagnosis to him. She told me about the conversation and tells me that he had an inclination that my son was special. I was just glad I didn’t have to have the conversation again. My father-in-law at the time is transitioning and learning to become a shaman. He accepted the gift after many years of trying to fight his spirit guides. I have a feeling this may be why he is very attached to my son.


I told mom over the phone because of the distance between us. She was very accepting and too had a feeling about my son since the many times that she had stayed with us, my son never liked them being there. It was a good feeling to know that she understood, but then was curious and started telling me stories of others she knows that may be like my son too or perhaps my son is like them. I didn’t know how to answer so, of course, I just said Autism, there’s is so many different things involved because it’s not just one thing that you can pinpoint saying they have it, so maybe they are, maybe not.

My step-dad, who is very culturally traditionally spiritual, tells me of a story of a relative’s daughter was unable to talk at all for the first few years of her life. The daughter was going to a special school and they had many people working with her on trying to get her to talk. One day the next-door neighbors were having a shaman ritual at their home and the girl happens to stumble in. When the shaman was done, he spoke to the little girl’s parents say they must do a ritual for her. So, the parents sought out a shaman and first had to bless a cow and sacrifice it for the shaman to be able to seek help. After the ritual, the ancestors told the shaman to pass on the message and let the girl’s parents know that she would be okay. The following week nothing happens, but the week after, the girl suddenly spoke. Out of nowhere, she told her mom and that she was hungry and she wanted to eat. My step-dad then goes and says I will see what I can do on my end here, maybe you guys will need to find a shaman to seek a certain ritual to perform too.

It’s been over a year now since the actual diagnosis and we still have not done so and I don’t know if we will ever seek this kind of help, but to hear the story, it did in some way give me a little hope. Maybe one day I will consider, but for now, I will continue to pray for guidance. My son, Kyson, has made lots of progress since he started ABA therapy and continues to thrive at a very fast pace. He still is very sensitive to noise and unfamiliar or unscheduled routines exhaust him, but we take it one second at a time.

-Anna MV



Anna MV

A Hmong woman practicing life finding art in everything. Blogger of Family, Life, Culture, Autism, Self Awarenes

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