IMPLICATIONS OF CULTURE ON DEVELOPMENTAL DELAY
By Rebeca Valdivia
or Delay within a Cultural Perspective
The discussion has thus led us to accept that disability is a socially
and culturally situated construct (Danesco, 1997; Harry, 1992; McDermott
& Varenne, 1996). Therefore, families of children of diverse cultures
(and languages) may not identify a certain series of behaviors or
symptoms as being descriptive of a 'delay' or 'disability'. For
instance, in her review of the literature, Danesco (1997) found
that many culturally diverse parents explained their child's condition
as a combination of biomedical and sociocultural or folk beliefs.
Families often saw their child's condition as temporary or something
that could be remedied. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see families
following a combination of 'professional/medical' prescriptions
along with home remedies, folk or alternative practices in order
to help their child. It should be noted that families varied in
how much weight they ascribed to professional, educational, or medical
interventions as compared to alternative interventions. Because
families had different interpretations of what constituted a delay
or disability, even having their child labeled led to misunderstandings
and mistrust between them and the professionals who were attempting
to be helpful. For example, if everybody else in the family had
followed similar developmental patterns, what would the label 'developmentally
delayed' given to the youngest child say about the rest of the family?
If the child functioned well in the life of the home and community
and the concern only existed in the clinic, school, or agency, was
the child truly delayed?
The cultural implications of the developmental delay category underscore
the importance of having a broad array of tools for assessment and
instruction as well as a good understanding of the child's culture.
Responsive, family-centered programs and professionals have taken
many steps to ensure effective communication between them and the
children they serve. These have included making interpreters available,
making printed as well as audio/audio-visual materials available
in the families' dominant language, and connecting parents to a
network of other parents with similar issues.
for children with developmental delay should reflect the goals identified
and mutually agreed upon by the interventionist, educators, specialists,
and, of course, the family. The learning objectives should include
the child's strengths as the foundation. They should be aimed at
bridging the gap between what the child is currently able to do
in his or her environment and what he or she needs to learn to do
in order to be optimally successful in the current or upcoming environments.
For instructional strategies and materials, professionals and families
are encouraged to implement multicultural practices which honor
and respect every child's culture and language.
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Copyright ©1999 ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education