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Early Intervention and Multicultural Competence

Although there is the same cultural and ethnic diversity among families of children with disabilities as their local community, this is rarely reflected in the staff or leadership of early intervention centers and advocacy groups. Outreach and programming should be culturally appropriate and inclusive for all families.

Families of color with children who have a disability may not meet a medical professional or advocate who share their ethnicity within months or years of their child's diagnosis, despite having neighbors whose children have a diagnosis like autism, Down syndrome, or Type One diabetes. Because their sons and daughters may be diagnosed later than anglo children, introductions to early intervention or preschool resources and advocacy groups are delayed.

Predominantly white professionals and staff may have 'multicultural' training without realizing that there is great diversity in culture and beliefs in families whose origins are geographically similar; that some families may be immigrants while others have roots in the community for generations; and that individuals from different cultures marry and have multiple cultures within their immediate families. This is especially obvious to anglo moms or dads who are subjected to culturally insensitive or racist remarks from individuals who are unaware they are insulting our children, spouses and in-laws. They may not understand that modern parents may choose their own style of parenting but still respect their own parents and grandparents' choices.

Multicultural incompetence and late diagnosis may also block great parents from natural leadership opportunities in organizations as children grow up. Bonds formed between families who go on to lead in advocacy may have already been established among predominantly white families whose children are diagnosed early and have been featured in awareness campaigns. Privileged parents may attribute late diagnosis and low attendance by families of color to less involved or caring parenting, rather than obstacles due to racism, culture, or childcare needs. There are also remarks that culturally aware but otherwise ignorant individuals are likely to say that have recently been categorized as 'micro-aggressions' - that may not seem even mildly racist to individuals from the dominant culture but reinforce obstacles to trust and communication.

While we all hope that every child will benefit from the opportunities available in early intervention and family support, professionals and volunteers often have a strong belief in their own opinions and seek alliances with others who agree. Maintaining power and control often means blocking great ideas, good advice and constructive criticism from parents who have a different perspective or set of beliefs even if they share cultural, ethnic and racial identities. Building inclusive communities for our children means that we must start at the beginning to create an inclusive community for families with disabilities whose ideas might just be better than any we have heard.

Browse at your public library, local bookstore, or online retailer for books like 50 Strategies for Communicating and Working with Diverse Families (3rd Edition) (Practical Resources in ECE) and Diversity in Early Care and Education: Honoring Differences

There is the same cultural and ethnic diversity among families of children with disabilities as their local community, rarely reflected in the staff or leadership of early intervention centers and advocacy groups. Outreach and programming should be culturally appropriate and inclusive for all.

Browse at your public library, local bookstore, or online retailer for books like 50 Strategies for Communicating and Working with Diverse Families (3rd Edition) (Practical Resources in ECE) and Diversity in Early Care and Education: Honoring Differences

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A Star Trek Convention for Native Enthusiasts: Inside a German Pow Wow
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Asian American Parentsí Experiences of Raising Children with Autism: Multicultural Family Perspective
http://jas.sagepub.com/content/48/5/594.abstract

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Donít Make Me Rip Those Chicken Feathers Off You by Dana Lone Hill
" ... To excuse the fact that you are mocking and making fun of every woman I have ever looked up to in my life is total disrespect. ... The Native women in my life, related or not- friends and relatives- are artists, writers, doctors, lawyers, tribal workers, counselors, tribal chairpersons, directors, photographers, blue collar workers, mothers, sisters; and we are proud of being Native.
Donít even try to take away everything we represent with your idea of who we are with a few chicken feathers. ..."
http://lastrealindians.com/dont-make-me-rip-those-chicken-feathers-off-you/

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