Planning with Families for Evaluation and Assessment:
Essential Content of Planning with Families
Page 6 of 13
Influences on a family's decision to talk about their concerns, priorties,
There are many factors that can influence a family’s decision to
discuss their concerns, priorities and resources including:
- Cultural mores about family life and raising children. Family
members and early intervention providers are each part of a unique
family group that has developed specific perspectives and rules governing
interactions and behavior among group members (as well as outsiders).
Understanding these cultural variations among families is dependent
on the ability of early intervention providers to recognize the
cultural influences on their own behavior.
These influences include:
- sexual preference
- ethnic/racial background
- socioeconomic status
- education (informal and formal)
- geography (urban vs. rural, region of country)
- communication (verbal and nonverbal, including professional jargon).
How parents organize their family life and raise children is highly influenced
by their childhood experiences in their family of origin as well as their
Likewise, the expectations of early interventions
providers about family life and parenting are drawn from their own family
of origin, personal experiences raising children, and professional training
(Barber, Turnbull, Behr & Kerns, 1989).
It is helpful, when encountering unfamiliar behavior, traditions or suprising
reactions, to ask oneself the following questions:
- To whom is this behavior/tradition/reaction unfamiliar?
- What do I see/hear another person do and say?
- What assumptions, if any, am I making about what this person is
- How do these assumptions affect my behavior and interactions with
|Having attended a pacifist
church his whole life, Sam, an early childhood special educator,
was disturbed by one father's interest in letting his young son learn
about his hunting gun. Aware that he considered his inappropriate
parenting, Sam asked his supervisor to help him understand his reaction,
and review his interaction with this father.
Perspectives about the nature of developmental delay/disability. A
family member's cultural background may influence his/her understanding
of a child's behavior and diagnosis, and whether or not a child may
need assistance to participate in family and community activities.
Most parents develop an "explanatory model," usually unspoken,
about a child's personality, behavior, strengths and challenges.
Part of this explanation is based on a parent's understanding of
identified diagnosis or developmental delay, its severity and impact
on daily life, cause for any delay, and what would be helpful (Kleinman,
|Ravi's father believes
his son's delayed development is due to his own past misdeeds, and
does not think that early intervention can change his son's predetermined
path. Ravi's therapist misinterprets his lack of interest in her
visit as an indicator of his attachment to his son.
|Ping marries an American
and brings his son, Luo, to the United States for treatment of his
autism. She enrolls her son in the local infants and toddler program,
and two private programs with very different philosophies because
she hopes western medicine will prompt her son's development. She
works with Luo whenever he is awake, and doesn't understand his teacher's
encouragement to "play" with him.
- Past experiences obtaining services and interacting with
personnel in medical facilities, and agencies such as public
health and social services. Previous interactions with professionals
such as doctors, nurses, and social workers create expectations for
family members about interacting with early intervention providers.
Every cultural group has developed mores about giving and receiving
professional care for dependent members who are very young, fragile,
ill, or at the end of their lives. Each person develops culturally
based attitudes about dependency, gaining and losing autonomy, and
receiving help from others. It is useful for early intervention providers
Are our current early intervention policies, customs and practices
If so, to whom are they helpful? Families? Children? Providers? All
groups? (Johnston, 1980).
|Mybinh's parents are
recent immigrants and speak limited English. In their experience,
family and friends were born at home, with assistance from the
village "midwife." When Mybinh was born prematurely, they consider
her stay in the NICU an intrusion on their family life, and don't
understand most of the medical procedures recommended by doctors.
|Kirsten's mother is
a medical librarian, and is comfortable looking up and using medical
terms. She reads all the research studies about her daughter's
diagnosis, and asks many questions, thinking at least she can educate
herself about what to expect. Angela, a new therapist, misinterprets
this mother's questions as a sign of mistrust.
- Ability of early intervention providers to build rapport
with families from various cultural and socioeconomic groups. Families
have suggested that one of the best strategies for developing rapport
is to learn to listen like a friend, and provide empathy and support
for a family situation (McBride, Brotherson, Joaning, Whiddon and
In addition to cultural and religious factors, the
age/gender match between
how comfortable family members feel discussing their priorities,
resources and concerns. For example:
- Some young mothers may not be ready to share personal
information with an early intervention service
provider who is close in age to their own mother. Other young
however, might find this situation very natural.
- Women in some
cultures may not be willing to speak directly to a male
early intervention provider unless
a male family member is present. Early intervention
providers may find themselves talking to fathers who have very
do with caring for young children.
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