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Serving Families of Diverse Cultures


Lori Rowan, Rosemary Vander Meyden, Connie Pehrson


Table of Contents



Great appreciation is expressed to the service providers and families across the United States who contributed personal stories to the monograph. Thank you to Vivian Allsop, Mary Brown, Renee Brown, Amy Golightly-Michael, Penn Grove, Susan Hanifl, Annamarie Hanshaw-Reed, Chris Jones, Kathy Mankinen, Susy Martorell, Suzanne Pope, Betty Price, Nanette Serrano, Karen Simonton, Heidi Stein, and to those individuals who submitted stories anonymously.

The following professionals read and critiqued sections of this monograph. Their valuable suggestions are greatly appreciated: Deborah Chen, Sonia Manuel-Dupont, Kathy de la Pena, Nanette Serrano, Susan Watkins.

Production Assistants:
Mindi Turpin and Fran Payne

Elaine Mikulich and Brad Teare

Copyright ©1999
SKI-HI Institute
All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission except in the case of brief quotations introduced in critical articles or review.

Published by: Home Oriented Program Essentials, dba HOPE, Inc.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education


This monograph is a resource designed for service providers who are providing early intervention services to families of diverse cultures. It contains valuable ideas and suggestions for cultivating cultural awareness and sensitivity. The monograph is divided into the following sections:

The material contained in all of the sections provides the opportunity for service providers to thoughtfully consider how they and their early intervention programs can appropriately serve families of diverse cultures. New ideas in expanding services, providing other options, or altering services to families of diverse cultures may develop as a result of reading the information provided in this monograph.

"Working with families from different cultures has taught me that although our beliefs, language, and values may be different, there is one common thread running between cultures. That linkage is our children. We share the same desire to want what is best for our children, to sacrifice for our children, and to help them become all that they can be." (Mary Brown, Parent Advisor, T.I.P.S., Nashville, TN)

Excerpt of Section 1:
Personal Stories from Service Providers "A Bouquet of Experiences"

Culture can be compared to a flower. Each flower or culture can be enjoyed for its beauty and uniqueness, but like a bouquet, working with families from different cultures offers service providers the opportunity to learn about the beauty of various cultures. Here is a beautiful "bouquet of experiences" from service providers who describe what they have teamed from families of diverse cultures and how these experiences have enriched their lives.

A message from a Native American family...

I was treated with the highest respect by my child's service provider and kept informed of all progress made by my child. I felt comfortable at all meetings and felt welcome and included. I never felt. there was a cultural gap. The early intervention agency had Naive Americans on their staff. I teamed valuable information on how to work with my child and was given encouragement and ideas on how to work through problems I was having with my child. My child had a problem with biting other children and I was given literature on dealing with that. My child and I became very fond of my service provider. Although my child is no longer part of the program, we still have a relationship-both professional and personal.


When you buy a beautiful big fern in your grocery store, do you ever give a thought where it came from? Thanks to our experiences in central Florida as service providers, we now have a very vivid picture of the "fern fields" and the wonderful folks who work very hard to make these ferns available to you at a reasonable cost.

Starting at the beginning, we received referrals for two families with children who were deaf. Complicating the process of connecting these families with a SKI-HI service provider was the fact that both families spoke only Spanish, and one of the families also did not read. The town where they lived was 1 1/2 hours away from St. Augustine. Not to worry; our audiologist, SKI-HI local trainer, and service provider, Zila, spoke "pretty good" Spanish and I "had" four years of Spanish in high school (how many years ago!). But we were motivated by the need of the families for information and support-so off we went for our first home visit.

We met at the local Health Department--good idea! We could find that with relative ease. After the formalities of meeting the family and getting a little acquainted, we decided to follow the family to their home in the fern fields so that we would know how to find it in the future. There were many turns in the road with no signs other than landmarks. We turned down a dirt road into a field that was under a vast "sea" of black netting. Zila and I looked at one another and said, "Well, here we go!",

t soon became clear to us that they preferred meeting us at the Health Department, which was like their community center. It also soon became clear to us through their body language and a few things that they said or didn't say that there were some very real fears on their part about our intentions with their children. Yes, we had explained who we were, what we were doing, etc. BUT, they thought our underlying goal was to take their children away from them and enroll them at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind! When that dawned on us, we addressed their fears openly. Even so, we had to continue to earn the trust of both families.

Zila, the service provider, looked forward to her weekly trek to the fern fields of central Florida. Experience taught her that these two families were most dedicated to their children and their children's progress. They were wonderful about letting her know if they could not be present for a home visit so that she would not have made a long trip in vain. Participation in visits was more formal and polite for the most part even after they knew her well.

This Health Care Center turned out to be a good location for the "home" visits. The timing was right for privacy, since it was at the end of the day and no one but Health Care Center staff was there. Support with communication was available when needed and the TV (with a VCR donated by Zila) served as an excellent way to show different aspects of the SKI-HI topics that could not be shared in writing. The SKI-HI graphics manual was also a good tool. Forms and materials were translated into Spanish as they were needed. The Family Support Plan (IFSP) was written in Spanish.

Ferns are grown in fields, harvested, potted, and shipped to you by folks just like the parents of "Juan" and "Maria". We enjoyed working together in behalf of their children.


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