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.
One 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 are deaf-blind.
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
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
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
careful not to judge the family by your own cultural beliefs.
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
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 status.
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
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
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
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
siblings and other family members in the conversation as appropriate.
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 education.
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.
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from Project SALUTEs focus groups, National Advisory Committee,
staff activities, and a review of relevant literature such as the
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