Imagine for a moment that you are an educator at a local children’s service in an area where a large migrant population resides. Many of these children identify and belong to the local Bangladeshi community. Their family and social ties to this group mean that cultural practices: language, traditions, observances, celebrations, customs, food and religion are maintained and provide the foundations for how they live their daily lives. For the young female children of this community it is common practice to adopt modest dress, such as the hijab, a veil that covers the head and neck. A substantial group of children at this service also have hearing impairments, many of them use hearing aids to assist their learning. Spending time in the classroom, you begin to notice that for one student named *Arya, the wearing of the hijab and subsequent covering of her ears, has impeded her hearing impairment. As an educator, you are concerned that the student’s learning is being affected. What do you do? Who do you talk to? How do you approach this issue sensitively?
Early childhood services and schools across Australia face similar dilemmas on a daily basis. More often than not, for educators, especially in an early childhood setting, the emphasis is on supporting the additional needs of the child within the educator’s own cultural framework. But such an approach fails to take into consideration Arya’s own cultural background and her family’s approach to disability.
How does Arya’s family view her disability?
Do child rearing practices differ for girls and boys in Arya’s culture? How?
Are extended family members and her local community aware of her additional needs?
Do her parents worry that this could impact negatively on her future prospects i.e. marriage?
How does this impact on her role in the family? Does this affect her parents willingness to seek support?
What are her parents expectations for their daughter’s development and education?
Does Arya’s mother feel comfortable to come along to a parent/teacher meeting?
Is she comfortable to discuss her child and family with the school?
Is she reluctant to accept the disability entirely for fear of social stigma that could lead to for her daughter and her other children?
Does she feel shame or a sense of responsibility for her daughter’s disability?
These are all questions we would need to be asking ourselves as educators and constantly reflecting upon premarin pills online throughout the process. We cannot assume to know any of this information without asking/consulting with the parents, carers and family.
In the case of Arya, the parents were approached by the service to discuss their child’s progress.
Working in partnership with the family
By building a relationship with the family and helping them identify the needs of their child in the education setting, whilst assuring them that cultural traditions, customs and beliefs would still be respected and considered, the educators were able to encourage the parents to come up with their own solution. They decided to allow their child to place the hijab behind her ears during class time. In this way the needs and best interests of the child where met but in a way which involved the family, empowered parent participation and acknowledged the child and the family’s cultural needs.
Arya’s story can help remind us of the importance of inclusive practices in early childhood settings. Inclusion needs to go beyond just including children based on their most immediate needs. In this case, creating an environment that strengthens children’s abilities to learn could have potentially neglected the child’s cultural needs which go beyond the classroom and their formative years.
To be truly inclusive in Early Childhood Services we must look at the child as a whole and identify all the possible keys to inclusion, be it disability, gender, culture and language.
Think of the child as a puzzle, if you will, if you’re missing half the pieces you may be able to get a sense of what some aspects of the picture look like but without ALL the pieces you fail to get the WHOLE picture. All children deserve to be included and inspired in order to thrive.
*Child’s name changed to maintain confidentiality.
This blog post is brought to you by Bicultural Support, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (Disability Consumer Capacity Building Project and the Ethnic People with Disability Program). To learn more about these programs provided by Ethnic Community Services Co-operative (ECSC) see: http://ecsc.org.au
UPCOMING EVENT: Multicultural Disability Interagency Forums @ ECSC
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When: 21st June, 24th August & 26 October,
Where: Building 3, 142 Addison Rd, Marrickville
Contact ECSC on (02) 9569 1288 for more information.