Supporting families from culturally and linguistically diverse groups

RIDBC Renwick Centre Auditorium on conference dayRIDBC Renwick Centre delivers over 3000 person days of CPE for teachers, therapists and other professionals in the field of vision or hearing loss.

Dr Alice Eriks-Brophy from the University of Toronto is a renowned auditory-verbal therapist with extensive experience working with Aboriginal communities in Canada. Dr Eriks-Brophy was in Australia to deliver a series of lectures around the enhancement of family involvement for children with hearing loss.

Dr Eriks-Brophy presented on how supporting families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups, including indigenous groups, often means that therapists must adapt to cultural differences in order to achieve the best outcomes.

“As an auditory-verbal therapist, our central focus is to get children to communicate – get them talking as much as possible," said Dr Eriks-Brophy. "In different groups however, there may be a different perception of a child’s role in society and also different perceptions of disability. 

“For instance, it may not be culturally appropriate for a parent to work on the same level as the child in which case, another family member may be able to get involved in the therapy.

“It is crucial for parents to understand the important role they play in their child’s development.  A therapist must build a relationship where parents feel safe and comfortable to speak candidly.  This ensures we can work together to accommodate cultural differences while getting the best outcomes for the child.”

Even with cochlear implants or hearing aids, children who are deaf must learn to understand the new sounds they hear - they have to learn how to interpret words and they have to learn to develop speech.  This takes hard work from a dedicated family and specialist teachers and therapists.

“Research has shown that when families feel well supported they are usually more satisfied with the services they receive and experience less stress. Furthermore, when families are well supported, they are more effective in taking on the various roles associated with having a child with hearing loss - enhancing the outcomes for the child,” said Dr Eriks-Brophy.

Children with hearing loss can be diagnosed at just a few weeks of age.  It is crucial therefore that parents and care-givers are involved in their therapy. For the best outcomes for the children, parents are given the tools and support they need to help their child develop language.

“In the early years, a therapist is really helping the parents to learn about hearing loss and how they can best support their child. It is so important for parents to use everyday situations to reinforce language,” said Dr Eriks-Brophy.

“One of the most important things for any therapist to remember is that there is no one size fits all approach. We can all still learn and we can all still find ways to achieve the best outcomes for children – we just might have to think outside the box slightly to achieve this.”

Over 20% of children enrolled at RIDBC are from CALD groups.