In recent years there has been a focus on providing more resources for deaf and hard of hearing children. The teaching of American Sign Language has been encouraged for deaf and hard of hearing children because it allows young children a means to communicate at an age when language acquisition is critical. There has been a push to provide early intervention services, support and resources that would allow a child to flourish and avoid language deprivation. However, there has been an increase in the amount of deaf and hard of hearing individuals coming from diverse cultures and, while instruction in ASL has benefited many, there is still a lack of multicultural education for deaf and hard of hearing children that could lead to lower self-esteem, prejudice and an insufficient education for every ASL student.
Multicultural education creates students who understand and appreciate different cultures and lifestyles. The major goal of multicultural education is that schools will be restructured to ensure that all students gain the knowledge and attitude needed to function in a society made up of many different ethnicities and cultures. James Banks, founding director of the University of Washington’s Center for Multicultural Education, established five dimensions of multicultural education. Incorporating these dimensions allows teachers to create a multicultural environment in any classroom. The first dimension is content integration. Content integration is when instructors use materials and samples from a variety of cultures as part of their lesson plans. The majority of schools for the deaf and hard of hearing develop a curriculum that integrates the teaching of ASL, but frequently, the ASL instruction does not include information that draws from the perspective of people of color.
The second dimension is knowledge construction, which includes the kind of knowledge constructed in textbooks. Instructors need to help students understand how knowledge is created and how it is influenced by ethnicity, gender and class. The third dimension is equity pedagogy. Teachers should use techniques that help all students succeed, including the students from marginalized groups. For example, some deaf and hard of hearing students from different cultures do well with a classroom that uses cooperative learning. The fourth dimension is prejudice reduction. Teachers can reduce prejudices by involving students from all diverse groups in cooperative learning activities. The fifth dimension is school empowerment. Schools should be designed to empower all students who might be in the minority. While the five dimensions are vital, the most important aspect of a multicultural education is to have an open dialogue in a safe space that fosters understanding and builds trust.
This article highlights the 5 multicultural dimensions and applies them to a school and program that focuses on instructing deaf and hard of hearing children. However, for a SLPA the 5 multicultural dimensions can be used when working with children at any school or in any program. When working as a SLPA, it is always important to keep in mind the different culture or background of a client. For example, content integration is a dimension that should be considered when working with materials. Pictures and stories that do not include people of color or only focus on one culture will not be as encouraging to a child who can’t relate to the stories and images being shown to them. For example, if a child was told to describe what they were seeing in a picture of a child looking for Easter eggs, when the child’s family doesn’t celebrate Easter, then the child would have some difficulty with the activity.
Working with a child and asking them to describe something from a picture that they are unfamiliar with, could lead to an unproductive session and a frustrated child. This article focuses on integrating multicultural education into ASL curriculum, but for a SLPA it is important to remember that all students, regardless of their diagnosis or abilities come from different backgrounds and cultures. Depending on a child’s culture, one student may not do well in group activities, coming from a culture where collectivism isn’t a valued quality. However, another child, who may come from a collectivist culture, may do exceedingly well when cooperating and working with a group. It is important for a SLPA to have an understanding of the culture or background of a child. Once there is understanding of what activities are the most beneficial, a SLPA can use that knowledge to more successfully assist the client.
The research in this article could be developed to help create more multicultural training for SLPAs. Many SLPAs are required to complete a multicultural course or are made aware of cultural diversity during their training and education, but the material in this article could help to expand upon knowledge and become a resource for understanding the dimensions of multicultural education. The multicultural dimensions could be used to supplement a SLPAs multicultural training. With further research into the success rate of children who learn in a multicultural environment, multicultural education can become a part of every curriculum, leading to the success of more children.
With so many different cultures in the world, it would be relevant to have further research regarding how more groups adapt to therapy. For example, parents of children who are deaf might adapt to the possibility of their child being a part of the deaf community. Deaf culture would be a new experience for hearing parents and it would be beneficial to have further research regarding families of mixed cultures who may feel often out of place. It would be important for SLPAs to keep in mind that children may have many or mixed cultures. No matter the circumstance, it is important to communicate and listen in order to build a relationship of trust and understanding with all students and clients.