with Spanish-speaking Families of Children who are Deaf-Blind
mandates and recommended practices in special education
require family/professional collaboration in a childs
education. Working together requires even more effort when
service providers and families have different cultural and
linguistic backgrounds. They may have diverse and sometimes
conflicting worldviews. The term worldview describes how
a person views the world based on his or her roles, values,
beliefs and life experiences.
of the fastest growing ethnic populations in the United
States is composed of immigrants from many Spanish-speaking
countries of the world. The Hispanic population includes
persons of all races and different nationalities whose cultural
heritage includes the Spanish language and Latino culture
(Gollnick & Chinn, 1991). Some people with this cultural
heritage prefer the term Latino and others prefer Hispanic.
The purpose of this information sheet is to identify specific
considerations for building relationships between service
providers and Spanish-speaking families of children who
a Positive Relationship
positive family/professional relationship can only be developed
through mutual respect, ongoing communication, shared goals,
and concentrated effort. We encourage service providers
to refine their interpersonal skills, to expand their worldviews,
and to work on developing cross-cultural competence.
in self-reflection and examine your own beliefs about
the role of service providers, child rearing practices,
and the familys role in their childrens
education, and expectations of children with disability.
there are multiple dimensions to an individuals
cultural background that shapes his or her worldview
including ethnicity, nationality, race, language,
education, profession, socio-economic status,
religion and many other factors. For example,
a highly educated, professional family from
Peru will have different expectations of their
child and of the educational system than a poor
family from the same country. Similarly, a middle
class family from Puerto Rico may have different
values than a middle class family from Mexico.
careful not to judge the family by your own cultural
that some families of nonmainstream backgrounds may
have beliefs about the cause of disability, role of
families, child-rearing, expectations of service providers,
and the role of school that will differ from those
of the educational system. For example, a mother may
view the child with a disability as a duty and gift
from God, or believe that because she was pregnant
during an eclipse, the child is blind. A 6-year-old
child may still use a bottle and sleep with the parents.
A family may view the teacher as the authority on
their childs education and be hesitant about
making decisions related to educational goals or options.
Your role is to listen and accept the familys
perspectives. As you develop a trusting relationship
with the family, you can provide additional information
that may assist the family in understanding other
and discard stereotypes. We all have stereotypes
that are based on the medias portrayal
of particular groups and our own limited personal
experience with individuals who are different
from ourselves. We must recognize and challenge
our assumptions about a family based on language,
ethnicity, lifestyle, and educational or socio-economic
out about the familys background and obtain
general information about that culture by reading
and asking service providers or community representatives
of that culture. Find out what are common, accepted,
and polite practices in communication, child
rearing, family decision-making, and working
with the medical and educational systems.
that every family is a unique system. Information
about a culture only provides a general frame
of reference and starting point that should
be checked out with the particular family.
needed, arrange for a qualified interpreter
for meetings with the family (see Working
with Interpreters). Determine the familys
preferred language and whether you need a Spanish-English
interpreter or some other language. For example,
some families from certain regions of central
or South America may speak an indigenous language
rather than Spanish.
the family speaks Spanish and you do not, then
learn greetings and other polite phrases, e.g.
"Buenos Días" (Good Morning),
"Buenas Tardes" (Good Afternoon),
"¿Cómo está? (How
are you?), "Gracias" (Thank You).
greetings and other words you know in Spanish. This
demonstrates respect for the familys language
and an interest in their heritage.
by having a personal conversation, for example, asking
about the well being of the family, commenting about
the children, and sharing related information about
yourself (e.g., where you grew up, how long you have
lived in the area, whether you have children) as appropriate.
siblings and other family members in the conversation
the purpose of the meeting and what will be discussed.
interest in the conversation through focusing on the
speaker, facial expressions and gestures.
aware of your body language and what messages are
communicated. For example, looking at the person with
whom you are conversing and leaning toward him or
her communicates your interest and attention to the
conversation. In contrast, frequently looking at your
watch or looking away from the person may communicate
a lack of interest or impatience with the conversation.
Remember that these examples may have the opposite
meaning in different cultures, e.g., looking away
from the person may communicate respect.
the family offers food or drink, be polite and have
some. If you cannot have what they offer, ask for
a glass of water.
questions to make sure you understand what the family
has said and encourage them to ask questions about
what you have said.
prepared for emotional moments. Be patient and allow
the family time to express their feelings.
the meeting by thanking the family and letting them
know what will happen next.
Families Understand the System
families are overwhelmed by the many systems (medical,
educational, and other social services) involved in services
for children who are deaf-blind. These systems are even
more unwieldy for families who do not speak English or
are newcomers to the United States. Even people who are
highly educated, speak English, and work in the educational
system experience great frustrations when learning about
the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) system or eligibility
requirements for trying to access another social service.
on your role and conversations with the family, identify
the community resources that they might want to access.
They may not know if they are eligible for social
security income and medical or other resources (e.g.,
Medical, Regional Center and California Childrens
Services in California).
our complex educational system to the family and their
rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA). Take time to go over essential terms and
procedures (e.g., IFSP, IEP) that the family will
encounter and help them learn about options for their
childs education. Let the family know that their
child should receive non-biased assessments in his
or her home language by qualified assessors.
time to explain specific terms related to a childs
visual impairment and hearing loss. For example, most
people do not understand the difference between "legally
blind" and "functionally blind" or
the difference between types of hearing losses. Similarly,
the family needs information and an understanding
about their childs prosthetic devices, communication
methods, school settings, and educational services
to make informed decisions about their childs
the family to make a list of specific questions to
ask their childs medical and educational service
providers (e.g., ophthalmologist, audiologist, neurologist,
speech and language therapist, and teacher) so they
will have a greater understanding of their childs
medical and educational needs.
the family prepare for the IFSP or IEP meetings by
making a list of the concerns and priorities they
have for their child and asking them to invite who
they want to attend with them (e.g., members of the
extended family who are involved in decision making).
Remind them that they have the right to make decisions
about their childs education. Be there to support
their participation in these meetings.
the family the opportunity to meet other Spanish-speaking
families of children who are deaf-blind so they can
obtain family-to family support and benefit from the
experiences of others.
with Spanish-speaking Families represents a synthesis
of information from Project SALUTEs focus groups,
National Advisory Committee, staff activities, and a review
of relevant literature such as the following bibliography.