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IFSP Tutorial - Developing and Implementing

Implementing the IFSP:

Essential Content for Implementing the IFSP

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Issues to consider when working with interpreters

Good interpreters assist early intervention providers in communicating clearly so that family members understand how to help their children participate in meaningful situations and experiences like others do.


Video Clips:

The video clips are available in Windows Media Player format and Quicktime format. In order to view the clips you must have either Windows Media Player or Quicktime installed on your machine. To download the programs, click on the icon next to the program's title.

Windows Media Player


To View the video clips:

1. Choose the speed at which you can view the file. If you have a dial-up modem, then you should choose the low-speed file name. If you have a DSL or Cable Modem then you should choose the high-speed file name.

2. The video will open in the video program. (Windows Media Player or Quicktime)




Videos Below:

In this video clip from Just Being Kids, Gloria, a mother of three children, reinforces how important it is for her and her early intervention provider to understand one another in order to help her daughter learn to walk on her own.

Windows Media File (wmv)

High-Speed File: Jenni C

Low-Speed File: Jenni C (56k modem)

QuickTime (mov)

High-Speed File: Jenni C

Low-Speed File: Jenni-C (56K modem)


The ideal interpreter is proficient in speaking both English and a family’s language, understands the role of an interpreter, is sensitive to the cultural background of all partners and understands the purpose of their early intervention interaction (Lynch & Hanson, 1992). In particular, an interpreter:

  • is proficient in speaking the language of a family as well as the early intervention provider, recognizes differences in dialects, and translates all messages accurately without adding his or her own interpretation, advice or opinion;
  • has had training and experience in cross-cultural communication and the process of interpreting, and can translate without omitting, adding, paraphrasing or changing the intent or substance of the speaker. An interpreter treats all interactions as confidential, and understands his or her job is to remain neutral while facilitating communication between two or more people who have important messages for one another;
  • understands early intervention terms and its basic mission e.g., the purpose for the interaction between early intervention provider(s) and a family whether it be to evaluate a child’s eligibility for a local infants/toddlers program, share testing results, or support parents during a home visit etc. When specific English terms do not have a suitable equivalent in a family’s language, an experienced interpreter knows how to convey the intent of the message accurately;
  • After a health questionnaire was translated from English to Spanish, one item, How often do you kiss your child, was consistently scored very low by Latino families. When the translation was double checked, it was found that the translation read: How often do you kiss your puppy? (Yu & Liu, 1994)

  • appreciates the cultural background of all parties and uses sensitivity in conveying their messages to one another. A culturally competent interpreter can guide an early intervention provider respectfully with regards to pacing, responding to a family members cues and nonverbal responses.

Early intervention providers must watch carefully for reluctance or signs of discomfort which can arise when a family is asked to discuss personal issues with unfamiliar people. This includes both an interpreter and early intervention providers. When close family members or friends serve as interpreters, discomfort can also arise due to gender or age differences, or just talking about personal information. Family members acting as interpreters may also wish to censor answers and keep certain information confidential in order to minimize anticipated public stigma. For all these reasons, it is not recommended to use siblings as interpreters for any significant discussions. “The role reversals, mutual resentments, and complex family dynamics that can emerge from this process should discourage interventionists from using children, regardless of how mature they seem to be (Lynch & Hanson, 1992, p.54). Siblings, however, should always participate with early intervention providers in any play and other family activities/routines as usual.

Responsibilities of early intervention providers when working with interpreters

In preparation for talking with a family via an interpreter, early intervention providers should brief the interpreter about the purpose of the meeting; the key points to communicate and what information may be sensitive; specific terms that will be used; and any documents that will be shown or referred to. Obviously, written documents that are not in the family’s language should be carefully considered; testing protocols and an IFSP form are important to share and describe. (Notices of IFSP meetings, parental permission for a child’s evaluation and assessment of family concerns, priorities and resources as well as participation in early intervention must be presented in writing, in a family’s language as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

Strategies that early intervention providers can use when working with an interpreter to facilitate communication and the translation process includes (Randall-David, 1989; Hanson & Lynch, 1992; Roney, 2001).


Facilitating communication

Facilitating the translation process

Learn a few greetings and social phrases in a family’s primary language, and know how to pronounce all family names

Understand cultural norms regarding paying attention, respect for elders and members of opposite sex, talking with unfamiliar people

Use a positive tone, and speak in a calm, unhurried voice, conveying respect for each family member.

Periodically ask the family to summarize what they have heard, and avoid asking, “Do you understand?” Ask the family if they have any questions or if they would like to hear about a topic again.

Speak clearly, and a little slowly, and be sure not to increase your volume.

Expect that it will take additional time to convey your message when using an interpreter.

Introduce yourself, your interpreter and describe your roles. Clarify mutual expectations about the purpose of the interaction/visit.

Address all remarks to the family, not the interpreter. Look at family members when they speak and observe their nonverbal communication.

Pause after several sentences so the interpreter will not have to translate too much information. Avoid jargon, slang, idioms, and colloquialisms.

Give instructions in a clear, logical sequence, emphasizing key words. Use gestures and pictures, and when possible, give a demonstration.

Focus on the key questions to ask, or information to share. Avoid oversimplifying and condensing important explanations.

Try, respectfully, to determine a family’s literacy level before using too many written materials.



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