Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Early Intervention with Latino Families: Implications for Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Early Intervention with Latino Families: Implications for Practice

Article excerpt

Counselors and early interventionists increasingly serve Spanish-speaking families. Yet, often, cultural accommodations merely imply use of interpreters or bilingual providers. Cultural competence requires self-awareness and understanding the client's community and specific risk and resiliency factors. Implications for serving clients of Latino origins are discussed and illustrated with a case study.

Cada vez hay mas consejeros y agentes de intervencion temprana proporcionando servicios a familias de habla hispana. Sin emargo, las acomodaciones culturales se limitan con frecuencia al uso de interpretes o proveedores bilingues. La competencia cultural requiere conocimiento de uno mismo y una comprension de la comunidad del cliente, asi como de los los factores de riesgo y resistencia especificos. Se discuten las implicaciones para servir a los clientes de origen Latino, y se ilustran con un estudio de caso.


Over the past few decades, early intervention programs and journals devoted to the topic of infants and toddlers have increased dramatically (Widerstrom, 1997). Early intervention programs serve families of infants and toddlers with disabilities in accordance with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), enacted in 1986 (Scarborough et al., 2004). The goal of these programs is to support child development and learning within the context of the home, family, and the individual's culture (Sandall, 1997). These programs are provided in one form or another in all 50 states within the United States (Widerstrom, 1997), and service providers are composed of multidisciplinary teams of counselors, social workers, and specialized providers of physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

Counselors working as early interventionists often work with family dynamics and stress that are related to children's disabilities (Mowder, 1997). As early intervention services have shifted focus from the individual child to the family (Widerstrom, 1997), the role of parents has changed from consumer, to teacher, and, currently, to active partner in interventions (Hanson & Lynch, 1995). Family-centered services, which aim to empower the family to take an active role in intervention for the child, have come to be considered the standard for best practice in early intervention (Beckman, Robinson, Rosenberg, & Filer, 1994).

Clients served by early intervention services are disproportionately composed of ethnic minorities (Scarborough et al., 2004), whereas those providing the services are often from the dominant culture (Hanson, 2004; Leavitt, 1999). Providers are likely to serve those individuals who differ culturally from themselves, which makes it imperative that they provide culturally competent services (Hanson, 2004). About 16% of the families who receive services are Latino (Scarborough et al., 2004) and are from various parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America. The risk and resiliency factors of Latina mothers and infants are different from those of Caucasians, African Americans, and members of other immigrant groups (McGlade, Saha, & Dahlstrom, 2004). Provider awareness of specific risk and resiliency factors is one element of culturally competent service. The purpose of this article is to discuss recommended culturally competent services for immigrant families, especially those of Latino origins, who are receiving early intervention services in the United States. A case study is used as an illustration.

As a point of reference, Spanish-speaking Latino immigrants come from many different countries and cannot be "lumped together" and considered one cultural group. Even when special attention is given to the country of origin, it is still possible to ignore very important cultural differences within each country. For example, the differences between a Mayan family from the highlands of Guatemala and a Spanish family from Guatemala City are likely to be greater than overall differences between two urban families from different Latin American capital cities. …

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