Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Category — 1.2 What is EI: Effects of Culture and Family

Culture and Family

We know children with disabilities living in Canada come from a variety of cultural, ethnic and faith backgrounds.

But we do not know specific numbers on disability and race or cultural origin in Canada.

  • In this course, the term culture includes oral or written traditions (see full Glossary), the language, and the religious beliefs (see full Glossary) and practices (see full Glossary) in each family.
  • Cultural differences include values about independence or interdependence; how adults and children interact ; what the family expects in terms of their child’s development; and, the cultural values (see full Glossary) and beliefs about disability.

It’s important to be sensitive to cultural differences for families and children with disabilities.

Family culture

Some family cultures view disability as a reflection of their family status. They may place a high value on keeping their reputation intact within their community and they may not access services or information. Providing services that are culturally sensitive is one way to reach these families. Culturally sensitive practices include listening to –and finding out and learning about– family values, beliefs, their language and cultural traditions.

Other family cultures may value interdependence, and live within a large extended family network. This means that any decisions about the child’s care must be made with grandparents or other family members as well as the child’s parents.  There are many hands to help take care of the child.


In some cultures, the words for some disabilities or medical procedures may be very difficult to translate.

Canada is a culturally diverse country and there are more services  and more information available for families in variety of languages and cultures.

It’s important not to stereotype because a person’s  beliefs and response to having a child with a disability may be related to their culture.

The interplay between the systems that impact a family are varied. Urie Bronfenbrenner described child development happening within an ecological model (Fig. 1) that includes influences from the individual child characteristics; the family characteristics; the extended family, social systems and school systems, among others.

Ecological model

Fig. 1: This figure illustrates an ecological model that includes the values and beliefs that influence the child, family, community and larger society

November 26, 2010   No Comments