Implementing the IFSP:
Essential Content for Implementing the IFSP
Page 14 of 16
Becoming culturally competent early intervention providers
5. Culturally competent early intervention providers use the skills
of anchored understanding and 3rd space dialgoue to develop a concrete
empathetic understanding of a family’s cultural context. When differences
inevitably arise among people from diverse cultural groups, providers commit
to developing creative and inclusive choices with families and colleagues
that honor all individuals involved.
Anchored understanding of diversity is the “experiential knowing” that
accumulates while interacting with a particular family from a specific
Bettina understood from talking to Klaus that he believed his son would
learn to roll over and crawl on his own time table, just like his other
children. His “typical” children developed age appropriate motor
skills at various times, and so would this last child. Bettina understood
Klaus’ experience, and accepted that he viewed her suggestions as “extra” assignments,
which his son did not need. Klaus only wanted to play with this child
like he had done with his other children.
Recognizing that family members are unique, yet also part of a larger
cultural framework, without rejecting either component, takes some
effort. Culturally competent early intervention providers recognize
that they don’t have to admire the behavior of culturally diverse
family members and colleagues as long as they believe that this behavior
makes sense from another’s cultural perspective.
Using strategies for developing anchored understanding of diversity,
culturally competent early intervention providers can begin to answer:
- Does my perspective of a child complement that of family members?
- Do I describe a child using words that family members can embrace?
- Do I understand a family’s hopes and dreams for a child?
- Can I describe what family and participation in family life mean to
each family I interact with?
- Do I recognize when a family’s “story” is not congruent
with my “story” about their child, and actually
sets up barriers between us?
The following internalized thoughts are signals that polarized understandings
about early intervention and provider roles are evolving between Shawna,
an early intervention provider and a young, first-time mother.
Shawna: “I seem to be more interested in helping JR than his mother
Mother: “Shawna knows a lot more about babies than I do, so
maybe I should just let her work with him.”
A second skill, 3rd space dialogue, can ease the tension
generated by contradictions between different people’s behaviors
and perceptions. If diverse perspectives can be viewed as complementary,
new options/actions/viewpoints can be generated. Barrero and Corso (2003)
use the following vignette to illustrate the concept of “3rd space”.
Betsy, an early childhood provider, visits Mayra, and her mother, Karen,
a single mother who recently moved to from Puerto Rico. Betsy is frustrated
because Karen views her as an “Expert”, and often leaves the
room so Betsy can work with Maya by herself. Betsy wonders how she can
culturally responsive when she goes into the homes of families from cultures
that make sharp distinctions between parents and “experts.”
Using an analogy of connecting rooms is a helpful way to understand 3rd
space dialogue. When Betsy is in a “room” all by herself (called
singular space) with no input from others, only her own opinions and perspectives
matter. She is by herself and doesn’t have to relate to Karen, or
think about her perspectives.
If Betsy realizes that she and Karen each have their own perspectives,
she now has a dualistic perspective about her relationship with Karen. They
coexist in their own spaces, but hold on to their own opinions and values.
Betsey may realize that Karen’s beliefs are as valid as her own. Yet
Betsy’s behavior is limited by her polarized thinking (i.e., either
Karen’s view or mine is the “correct” perspective). There
is no room for alternate possibilities in dual space dialogues since each
person remains in their own “room,” certain of her view.
A 3rd space perspective embraces the possibility that both Betsy’s
and Karen’s perspectives could co-exist, without either one labeled
as “wrong.” Betsy could ask herself, “In Maya’s
best interests, how can I adapt my beliefs and values with Karen’s,
emphasizing their collective strengths?” Once this possibility is
embraced, Betsy and Karen could jointly explore different actions freed
from their barrier of viewing early intervention as an either-or situation
concerning how involved Karen is during Betsy’s visits.
Thus, 3rd space dialogue sets the stage for discussion by Karen and Betsy
of the following possibilities:
- Betsy could reframe her view of Karen’s “noninvolvement” in
a number of ways:
- as an opportunity for Maya to develop problem solving skills
independent of her mother for a portion of each visit that she
and Karen could talk
about at the end of the visit;
- that labeling Karen’s participation in early intervention as “noninvolvement” is
really an inaccurate view of Karen’s behavior because she periodically
listens and watches from the doorway, giving Betsy opportunities to ask
Karen’s opinions and reactions to what is going on. Karen has
specific ideas about what she wants for her Maya, and actually called
intervention program on her own.
- Karen’s style of parenting is supportive and facilitory rather than
directive; Betsy’s suggestions for play and caring for with Maya are
far out of Karen’s comfort zone and should be reframed in order
to be embraced by her.
- Betsy and Maya could accompany Karen on “field trips” to
other parts of the house or places in the community, giving Betsy the
opportunity to see first-hand what Karen’s day is like. Betsy then
would have a much clearer idea of how to use natural learning opportunities
Karen and Maya achieve specific outcomes for Maya’s participation
in family life.
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