Maurizio Seracini is an expert art diagnostician who also appears as a character in Dan Brown's best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code. Using radar, X-rays, echographs, and other probing tools, Seracini creates a clinical chart of each of his "patients," which are masterpiece artworks. He investigates the process of decay, identifies the pathologies, and finds ways to understand what the artist was trying to communicate. He delves beneath the surface of a work of art to discern its story: Where did it come from? Who created it? How and when was it created?
In the novel, through his meticulous art diagnostics, Seracini discovered that one of the most famous paintings in the world, "The Adoration of the Magi" in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy, was not painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, as previously believed. He found that Da Vinci did the under-drawings, but these preliminary drawings were not only scraped away but also many of the figures were covered up by later painters. What was Da Vinci trying to communicate to the viewer? What stories did he want to share? Why did he choose those topics? Similar to uncovering Da Vinci's code, speech-language pathologists must also be expert diagnosticians when working with individuals with hidden stories that need to be decoded.
When working with culturally and linguistically diverse children and families, SLPs must function like Seracini—as inquisitive diagnosticians using a range of tools to decode the meaning of verbal, nonverbal, and socio-cultural messages with the intent of providing a clinical chart. The methods are not the same as Seracini's, but the process of uncovering the codes is equally fascinating. The tools include culturally fair assessment, dynamic assessment, ethnographic studies, and modified standard procedures. The methods include the SWOT approach and the RIOT approach.
In order to decode each student's clinical history, sufficient cultural knowledge about the family, language, and values is necessary. Cultural intelligence is crucial to the success of decoding messages and communicative intents. For Seracini, cultural intelligence made it possible for him to decode Da Vinci.
To decode the messages we receive, the following approach is suggested for culturally and linguistically diverse children:
- Use the SWOT method to analyze the case.
Identify the strengths of the child, the weaknesses of the child, the opportunities available to the child, and the potential threats if the correct diagnosis is not made and the appropriate intervention is not provided.
- Use the RIOT approach to assess the case.
Review all pertinent background, interview all relevant individuals, observe in multiple settings, and test the child using culturally fair methods.
- Use the data to establish intervention strategies.
Analyze the results collected and develop strategies based on all of the data obtained from the SWOT and RIOT methods.
- Analyze the complex process of decoding messages with mixed codes. In the art of diagnostics, new methods such as SWOT and RIOT—combined with sufficient cultural intelligence—will help school-based clinicians to decode the messages of multicultural children and families in an accurate clinical chart.