Sharing more than a home

Chinese heritage is the bond linking five men with disabilities

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Keith Bedford/Globe Staff
Patricia Wen, Globe Staff
The Boston Globe
January 1, 2016

The aroma of Asian stir-fried vegetables and pork wafted through a West Roxbury home before dinnertime on a recent Saturday. And around the table, Joseph Wong, Donald Lee, Francis Chan, Wei-Li Sun, and Wayne Wang were waiting, knowing this particular dish — written on the week’s menu posted on the refrigerator — was coming.

The table had been set by Wang, 22, and the kitchen sweep-up would later be done by Chan, 34, part of their assigned chores also listed on the refrigerator.

The men are not related, but are bound by a common Chinese heritage and by intellectual disabilities that cause each of them to crave order. Four have additionally been diagnosed with autism, and another has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

They live together in this two-story white house with some Chinese decor, one of the first in the state for developmentally disabled adults that is focused on a cultural theme.

These men were brought together by their families, who felt they were better off together in a place grounded in the food, language, and culture of their upbringing, as well as with routines that meet their cognitive and emotional needs. The oldest occupant is 50.

A nonprofit human services group, the Advocates of Framingham, worked with these families on securing a location and, with the help of the state, created the home about five years ago.

The parents, who typically speak together in a combination of Mandarin, Cantonese, and English, say they — and their sons — feel totally at ease in this house.

“We wanted the group home to be more like our home,” said Grace Sun of Brookline, the mother of 32-year-old Wei-Li.

Group homes such as these are part of the national movement toward greater “cultural competence” in dealing with adults with disabilities and their families, said Jeff Keilson, senior vice president at the Advocates.