Academic journal article Education

Korean American Parents' Communication with European American Therapist during Behavioral Intervention Services

Academic journal article Education

Korean American Parents' Communication with European American Therapist during Behavioral Intervention Services

Article excerpt

Partnership between parents and professionals is important in any educational setting (Bernhard, Lefebvre, Kilbride, Chud, & Lange, 1998). Partnership can be defined as an association between a family member and a professional who function collaboratively, using agreed roles to pursue a mutual interest or common goal (Park, Turnbull, & Park, 2001). The partnership between parents and professionals is particularly important in behavioral intervention services for students with autism and behavioral issues because it is imperative that parents play a primary role as behavior agents under behavioral intervention services. Parents' priorities and values need to be considered for effective implementation. Also, there are increased possibilities for parents and professionals to work together. It is natural that good communication between parents and professionals is important for developing a partnership. The issue of partnership raises concerns especially when parents and professionals come from different cultures because they are likely to be different in their approaches to child rearing practices and interpersonal communicative styles (Bernhard et al., 1998).

The communicative styles in American culture can be characterized as precise, logical, verbal and valuing self-assertion. Thus, professionals in this culture convey information through verbal codes. This emphasis on verbal codes makes communication straightforward and explicit (Chan, 1993). In contrast, East Asian culture with emphasis on collectivism and interdependence, especially with Koreans and Japanese, tend to rely on situational cues, established hierarchies, and non-confrontational responses in communication with others. Communicating with individuals in this communicative style requires knowledge of shaded meaning, nonverbal cues, and subtle affects in order to correctly understand the speaker's intention. Also, harmonious relationships are highly valued, so Korean Americans may find it more important to achieve mutually satisfying and face-saving outcomes than to complete tasks effectively. Thus, when professionals and parents who have different communicative styles communicate, they may find it difficult to understand each other (Park &Turnbull, 2001; Chan, 1993).

The purpose of this project is to explore how Korean American parents and European American therapists collaborate, communicate and solve issues as they occur.


Qualitative interviews were employed to investigate how Korean American parents develop and maintain partnerships during behavioral intervention services provided by European American therapists. Ten Korean American mothers of children with autism and behavioral problems from a metropolitan city in California participated in the study. All parents in this study worked with, or were working with European American therapists from agencies which were self-described as behavior intervention services using methods derived from applied behavior analysis and positive behavior support.

A demographic information form was developed in order to gather information about the parents' level of education, income, employment, age, and the children's disability type, severity, age, and services they received. An interview protocol was developed based on the information obtained from pilot interviews, literature reviews and research questions, which were pursued for this study.

Data Collection and Analysis

The author conducted open-ended qualitative interviews with each of the parents. Ali of the conversations with parents were audio taped and transcribed for analysis. In this study, each parent was interviewed for approximately 90 minutes. The author conducted follow-up interviews with seven parents in order to clarify their comments.

As a method of analyzing interview data, the author utilized a constant comparative method of qualitative analysis developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967). …

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