Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, Ph.D.
   California State University, Sacramento and
         Elk Grove Unified School District
Information excerpted with
permission from:
   Roseberry-McKibbin, C. (2008). Multicultural
    students with special language needs:
    Practical strategies for assessment and
    intervention (3rd ed.). Oceanside, CA:
    Academic Communication Associates

   Roseberry-McKibbin, C. (2007). Language
    disorders in children: A multicultural and case
    approach. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
   Between 1990 and 2000, using the category of “race
    alone,” the number of Asians in the U.S. increased by

   If one uses the category of “race alone or in
    combination,” the number of Asians in the U.S. grew by
    72.2% (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000).

   Between the years 2004-2005, the number of Asians in
    the U.S. grew by 3%, the highest of any race group
    during that time.
Currently, the largest groups are:
   1. Chinese
 2. Filipino
 3. Asian Indian
 4. Vietnamese
 5. Korean
 6. Japanese
*Common religions include:
   Confucianism

   Taoism

   Buddhism (karma, reincarnation)
A problem for Asians…
   Is that they are sometimes referred to as
    the “model minority.”

   Thus, they may be targets of resentment

   Their needs may also be overlooked; they
    may have difficulty receiving support
*In terms of SES…
   30% of Asian children live in low-SES
    families as compared to 61% of African
    American children and 63% of Hispanic
    children (National Center for Children in
    Poverty, 2006)
   The family is the basic societal unit and
    central focus of an individual’s life.
    Extended families living under the same
    roof are common.

   Many Asian cultures are patriarchal—
    fathers and eldest sons hold positions of
    high respect
Many Asian families encourage
children to…
Defer to adults

Respect authority

Be seen and not heard (“A quiet child is a good

Not grow up too quickly (mainstream Americans
 might view young children as “dependent” and
For example:
   Many infants are
    breastfed on demand
    around the clock

   Infants are carried
    constantly; if they cry,
    they are attended to

   Many children sleep with
    their parents
*Some families believe…
   That learning through exploration is unnatural

   If children show curiousity and want to
    explore, they are viewed as ill-mannered

   The child’s growth and self-realization as an
    individual is not important; it’s all about the

   A child’s bad behavior is a disgrace to the
    whole family
If young children have special
   Parents may not view
    intervention/rehabilitation as necessary

   The attitude is “let kids be kids”

   Independence is not stressed
Parents may not feel obligated…
   To create learning situations for their children

   Children may be expected to learn through
    observing adults and being with them through
    the course of the day

   Often, older siblings care for younger siblings
Physical punishment…
   Is often common and expected

   Professionals need to let parents know
    specifics about American laws
    regarding what constitutes child abuse
   Education is very highly
    valued, and is the way
    an individual can bring
    honor to the family

   Most Asians have very
    high educational
    expectations for their
According to the American Community
Survey (2005):
     49% of single-race Asians
      25+ years have a Bachelor’s
      degree or higher as compared
      to 27% of the general

     20% of Asians have advanced
      degrees (e.g., Master’s,
      doctorate) as compared to
      10% of the general population
      (25+ years)
   *Asian Indians and Filipinos have the highest
    educational attainment in the U.S.

   Conversely, many Hmong are preliterate (Vang,

   Most Asian schools value rote memorization and
    conformity; creativity may not be encouraged

   Many Asians consider it rude for students to
    volunteer or ask questions in class
Abboud & Kim (2007):
   The role of Asian Children in the family is clear-cut and
    two-fold: Respect your elders and obey your parents.
    Study hard and do well in school to secure a bright

   Asian parents are not that concerned with boosting their
    children’s self esteem; Asian parents praise their
    children less frequently than mainstream American

   Asian children split their time between activities less
    frequently, and focus more on schoolwork.
Asian students in school…
   May be very quiet and make limited eye
    contact with adults

   They may appear less independent, and may
    not conform to the mainstream value of
    verbal display of knowledge

   They may take fewer risks and show less
   Values include hospitality, modesty, and

   Perseverance and diligence are very

   When I work with parents, I talk about
    children’s good behavior, courteous manners,
    and effort
In Asian culture…
   It is extremely important to avoid tooting
    your own horn

   In Japan, “The nail that sticks its head
    up gets hammered down.”

   For Confucian Asians, hierarchy in
    relationships is quite important
   In the U.S., lack of health insurance is a
    significant problem for many Asian
    immigrants and refugees

   Many Asians only consider physical
    disabilities to be worthy of treatment
A challenge for educators…
   Is that invisible conditions (e.g., learning
    disability, language disorder, stuttering) are
    not viewed as disabilities per se

   Research shows that often parents will view
    these children as lazy and “not trying hard

   Parents may also view problems as “fate.”
Hwa-Froelich and Westby 2003:
   Studied Southeast Asian students and their

   These parents believed that any learning
    problems in their children were associated with
    fate, stubborness, or laziness

   When students did not perform up to expectations
    in school, strict discipline was used to force them
    to study longer and work harder
Some parents in the study…
   Believed the child’s problem was due to being
    born under “bad stars”

   All parents in the study preferred
    administering physical punishment to their
    children over losing face

   Parents viewed children with severe
    disabilities such as blindness as a potentially
    shameful burden on the family
Because of the potential stigma
associated with disabilities…
   Many Asian parents could be hesitant to
    seek help

   They might believe that caring for the
    disabled child is the responsibility of the
    family, not the school
   Many Asian languages have formal
    rules of communication propriety based
    on the relative status of each of the
    participants in the interaction

   To ascertain your status, people may
    ask “personal” questions such as “how
    old are you?” or “are you married?”
   Indirectness is the norm. Public displays
    of emotion or confrontation are
    considered to be rude

   Smooth and harmonious interpersonal
    relationships are a high priority
   Many Asians will not openly disagree
    with you

   They may smile and nod, but this does
    not necessarily convey agreement

   Some Asians (e.g., Japanese) value
    silence and speaking softly
   Many Asian languages have numerous
    dialects that may or may not be intelligible

   For example, the Philippines has 87 major
    dialects that are mutually unintelligible

   Vietnamese, Chinese, and Laotian are
    tonal languages; each tone is phonemic in
    nature and represents a meaning change
   Address older members of the family first as a
    sign of respect

   We may need to defer to fathers

   Because of their respect for educators,
    families may view us as the “experts” and
    thus not feel comfortable volunteering
    opinions or responses
In Confucian Asian families…
   Each individual child is a developing part of a
    continuing family lineage; he is a continuation
    of his ancestors

   Thus, his family might reject any diagnosis of
    a disability because the entire family lineage
    would be disgraced

   Special education services might be rejected
   It may be considered disloyal or
    disgraceful to the family for parents to
    openly discuss a problem such as a
    child’s disability

   We need to be very sensitive, and may
    need to be less direct in discussing areas
    of concern
    For example:
   (with mainstream parent): “I tested Johnny,
    and the results of my assessment show
    that he has a language disorder.”

   (with Asian parents) “I tested Soua. He
    was so well-behaved and hardworking! He
    is really respectful, and tried very hard. I
    found that he is smart, but there are certain
    areas which pose a bit more of a
If we emphasize early independence
for young children…
   Families might be quite surprised

   They might resist early intervention
With young children in
   Many Western
    interventionists use
    play therapy

   This may run counter
    to the family’s cultural
    practices; they value
    quietness, conformity,
    and respect
What I find most helpful…
   Is to talk about the child’s
    future educational and
    overall life success

   Parents often expect their
    children to take care of

   Thus, the children need to
    become successful adults!
Johnston & Wong (2002)…
   Surveyed English-speaking North
    American and Chinese mothers
    regarding discourse practices used with
The Chinese mothers were much less
likely to report that they:
   Allowed their children to converse with
    adults who were non-family members

   Often talked with their children about
    non-shared events of the day

   Prompted their children for personal
Only 30% of the Chinese mothers…

   Reported that they read books with their
Recommendations of Johnston &
Wong 2002:
   Many mainstream Western
    professionals recommend
    embedding language
    stimulation activities into
    games/situations with toys

   Chinese parents may be
    more comfortable using
    explicit lessons rather than
   When a recommended Western practice
    such as reading books is not culturally
    congruent for families, they can be given
    “functional equivalents”

   These include oral storytelling, looking at
    family photo albums, etc.
*Many Asian children:
   Are urged to control their feelings,
    especially if those feelings are negative

   Need to be encouraged to express
    opinions, form judgments, and engage
    in problem-solving activities
Working with Asian families and
   Is a joy, and I am continually learning new
    lessons about members of this population
Turn to the people near you…
   And discuss practical ideas/suggestions
    that you have found useful when
    working with Asian students and their

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