Expanding La Rabida's Cultural Horizon

Cindy Herdé, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a multilingual speech language pathologist in the developmental/rehabilitative services department at
La Rabida. She is fluent in English, Spanish, Dutch and a rare language called Papiamento.

La Rabida serves both English and Spanish speaking families. Herdé is examining cultural differences in Spanish language patients and their impact on patient care, as well as the impact of having assessments done in the family’s primary language as opposed to using translators.

“Our personal views of development affect how we serve and evaluate families who are coming from a different culture,” says Herdé. “It’s not just the language piece, but also the culture component that’s very important. If we are culturally sensitive to these families then we can give them better assessments and provide them with better services and care.”

Herde also provides cultural lessons to La Rabida residents and medical students entitled “One Child, Two Cultures: Assessing the Bilingual/Bicultural Child in a Monolingual World.”

Cultural sensitivity doesn’t mean only Hispanic families, but also highlights the key cultural differences between Caucasian American families and Asian, African and other families. “All children go through the same developmental changes and have the same needs and rights,” said Herdé.

Herdé also leads a family centered feeding clinic for Spanish speaking patients and families. “We’re examining family attitudes about g-tube feeding. How does the family feel about the child not eating anything by mouth? It’s a very sensitive topic, and if you take away the stress of having to translate, then the fear that maybe you’re not getting yourself across well goes away.”

In addition Herdé offers a weekly bilingual language group for school-aged kids who are delayed in both Spanish and English. These are the children who typically “fall through the cracks” in the school system.

“Many Hispanic families feel pressured to learn English because they’re living in the U.S. and worry that they need to teach their children English, but it’s actually the opposite,” says Herdé. “You need to have a good foundation in your primary language and that will trickle over to the second language you’re learning. If your English as a parent is not so great, then you’re providing your child with an incorrect model, and then your child won’t have a good foundation in either language. I would rather you speak fluent Spanish and give your children a good foundation than to speak broken English. Sometimes it’s best to go back to basics, and for many families that’s Spanish,” she said.

Ultimately, Herdé would like to implement a Spanish language interdisciplinary assessment team in order to provide families who are Spanish speaking with a more culturally inviting assessment experience.