Meeting the needs of Latino toddlers and preschoolers with disabilities: Parents' and bilingual service providers' views and practices
Thompson, Alexia Manning Rodriguez
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Few studies have examined in detail the ways in which bilingual service providers work with families of young Latino children with disabilities to include their families' perspectives in designing and adapting services. This instrumental collective case study explored the views and practices of three bilingual early intervention and preschool service providers, one Anglo, one Puerto Rican, and one Argentine-American. Each was asked to select two children or families who differed so greatly from each other that their services had to be adapted. Observations of service providers working with the children, semi-structured audio-taped interviews, and informal, culturally-appropriate interviews (Valdés, 1996) in participants' preferred languages over periods of one to thirteen months were used to explore service providers' and parents' views about children's abilities, families' roles in educating their children, and ways service providers addressed cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity. The researcher used within-case and cross-case analysis including direct interpretation and categorical aggregation (Stake, 1995). A native speaker of Spanish reviewed interview transcripts and field notes utilizing a list of preliminary codes (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Findings indicate that two practitioners said they adapted services for parents to be linguistically and culturally appropriate. However, they adapted services for children based on factors related to their linguistic needs, disabilities, and developmental levels, but not culture, because they believed the children were or should become familiar with materials and activities common to mainstream children in the United States. The third service provider said she adapted her practices with children and their families to match or make accommodations for their culture, language, dialect, and prior experiences. Few accommodations for socioeconomic factors were noted. Two of the service providers networked formally and informally to "cover the bases" for Latino children with disabilities through advocacy and mentoring. They mentioned a lack of preparation for working with children and families in their homes and a need for more supervision of practitioners providing home-based services. Implications and recommendations for bilingual special educators, personnel preparation programs, and policy makers are discussed.