Cultural heritages, values, and beliefs may dramatically affect the family's perception of and participation in the assessment process (Haney & Knox, 1995; Hanson, Lynch, & Wayman, 1990), development of the intervention, and plans for the future. Other aspects of diversity may affect a family's cooperation. The table below summarizes the important considerations in working with families and developing a sensitivity to diversity.

Area of Consideration Issues in Being Responsive to Diversity
  • A family’s hopes for its child may range from appropriate aspirations to elevated or depressed expectations.
  • Family aspirations affect the level of involvement families choose in making the referral, in participating in the assessment process, and in helping to develop a plan of services. Family aspirations are influenced by culture, economic status, gender, or geographic regional expectations.
  • Family members may actively seek help or they may view needs and concerns as private matters. Family views are influenced by one or more aspects of diversity.
Authority of the school
  • Some families wish to participate in parent professional partnerships. Families from some cultural communities naturally defer to authority.
Child rearing
  • Families approach child rearing from various perspectives, including independence, communication, and physical contact.
  • Some families use an assertive style in their verbal communication that assists them in referring their child and in entering the service system. Other families naturally defer to authority figures and do not pursue issues.
  • Some families use nonverbal communication, including eye gaze and gestures to communicate important wants or needs.
  • Communicating takes on a special significance to some groups. Finishing a conversation is more important than being on time.
  • Communication that involves technology may be a barrier for some families.
  • A disability may be viewed as shameful, or the person with a disability may be viewed as having a second-class status.
  • A disability can present social or physical barriers. These barriers may be perceived, or they may be actual barriers of access.
  • Issues of acceptance involve one or more of the following groups: parents, extended family, community.
Legal status
  • Families may lack knowledge of their rights.
  • Families with illegal status often fear government authorities or school officials.
Literacy and language
  • Family members may not have literacy skills in their own language or in English.
  • Information and materials are seldom available in the family’s native language.
  • Translators may not be available.
  • Standardized instruments often lack a representative norming sample.
  • Examiners may not be familiar with aspects of diversity.
Medical practices
  • Medical practices differ and can cause misinterpretation between families and school personnel.
Meetings and support groups
  • The format of group discussions can cause difficulty for families of some communities.
Parental roles
  • In many cultures, the person who makes the decisions is the principal male family member.
Transient status
  • Families that are homeless or move frequently have difficulty entering the service system.