The United States is one of the most culturally, ethnically, racially, and linguistically diverse countries in the world, so it is essential that all service provider know a range of strategies in order to enhance their relationships with families from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. It is helpful for those seeking to work as service providers to develop a common foundation of knowledge and practical strategies to address the needs of the families they serve, especially when the families' cultural background are different from their own. The textbook Knowing and Serving Diverse Families is designed for service providers who are providing early mediation services to families of diverse cultures. It includes ideas and suggestions for fostering cultural appreciation and sensitivity. The strength of the textbook is that it is easy to read and understand, and it offers realistic, common sense strategies to those of us seeking to get a better understanding about diversity. The material in the book encourages the reader to engage in self-reflection in regards to their role and how families might perceive it. It also racially breaks down ethnic diversity amongst American families. The purpose is so that we can work effectively with diverse, multi-need audiences, by knowing effective program planning for diverse people. The authors believe "that individuals are best served by professionals who understand the family, social milieu, and personal dynamics of their individual customer, patient or student" (Hildebrand et al. 5).
Knowing and Serving Diverse Families has many strengths and serves as good basic information for those interested in working to help others. The textbook is organized into five sections. This organization allows easy reference by the reader wanting to reexamine specific sections of interest. The first section of the textbook provides stories from service providers who have worked with and interacted with families of diverse cultures. These stories are great and provide an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. In Section 2 the authors describe the Diversity Wheel and how it can be used to improve cultural sensitivity and awareness about diversity. The Diversity Wheel is a tool that can help to clarify the many factors that define an individual's uniqueness. This tool lists seventeen factors which relate to the service provider's or family's identity (Gruber). The Diversity Wheel allows the service provider to gain an understanding of the basis for expected behaviors within and outside the service provider's own cultural group. This model of developing an awareness and knowledge gained through self reflection can be generalized across various cultures.
Section 3 through 5 provide excellent information on respecting cultural diversity when gathering information. The process of initial contact with the family is an important first step in the early intervention process. The area of assessment is another critical area when working with families in the early intervention system. The fourth section of this book provides much helpful information and many tools when preparing for and collecting information about the child's interests, strengths, abilities and personality characteristics. The final section addresses considerations in providing sensitive and appropriate programming for linguistically diverse families. Information about use of bilingual service providers, use of interpreters, and translating materials are discussed in this section. The biggest strength of this material is that it provides many stories from service providers and parents, which makes the material applicable to actual situations
Teachers and other professionals that provide services to families from different cultural backgrounds need to be aware of unique perspectives and communication styles common to other cultures. This is important because one needs to know and understand...
Cited: Gruber, Patricia R. . We All Are Different. 2002. West Virginia University. 02 Nov. 2005 .
Hildebrand, Verna, Lillian A. Phenice, Mary M. Gray, and Rebecca M. Hines. Knowing and Serving Diverse Families. 2nd ed. Columbus: Prentice Hall, 2000.
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