Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #374
CE Offered: BACB
Diversity submission Diversity in Behavior Analysis: Cultural Competence, Neurodiversity, Ableism, and Practicing What We Should Be Preaching
Monday, May 31, 2021
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Area: CSS; Domain: Translational
Chair: Diana J. Walker (Visions, LLC; The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Discussant: Christine E. Hughes (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
CE Instructor: Diana J. Walker, Ph.D.

This symposium will address diversity issues within the field of behavior analysis, with emphasis on humility, cultural humility, pragmatism, and inclusion. The first talk will present data on the diversity of behavior analysts practicing in Ontario, as well as their self-reports of how culturally competent they believe they are, in comparison with the level of diversity education and training they report. A second presentation will describe the neurodiversity movement, autistic culture, and how traditional Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) contributes to the trauma autistic people experience from others trying to change who they are. A third presentation will describe the cultural bias of research in ABA, specifically, the historical roots of ableism in ABA and examples of ableism in current research. A final presentation will describe the differential treatment and segregation of applied practitioners vs. basic researchers/academicians, and the negative effects on the science and practice of behavior analysis. Presenters will offer suggestions for combating the concerns they highlight, and Dr. Christine Hughes, a distinguished basic and translational researcher and radical behaviorist, will serve as discussant.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): ableism, applied pragmatism, cultural humility, neurodiversity
Target Audience:

Audience members should have a basic understanding of ABA treatment, such as for people with autism. They should have heard the term "radical behaviorism" and have a basic understanding of the relations among EAB, ABA, and radical behaviorism.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1. define cultural competence and state why it is important in ABA practice. 2. define neurodiversity and state one advantage of that perspective when working with autistic people. 3. define ableism and describe a current or past example of ableism in ABA research or practice. 4. define cultural humility and state one way it is different from cultural competence. 5. explain why collaboration among basic and applied behavior analysts and scientists/practitioners from other fields is pragmatic.
Diversity submission Are Behaviour Analysts Culturally Competent? They Think So!
(Service Delivery)
Paige O'Neill (Brock University), Albert Malkin (Western University; Southern Illinois University), KARL GUNNARSSON (West Park Healthcare Centre; University of Iceland), Nazurah Khokhar (Brock University), Carly Magnacca (Brock University), Julie Koudys (Brock University)
Abstract: Cultural competence has important implications for the delivery of effective and acceptable treatments. Ontario is a culturally diverse province necessitating cultural sensitivity on the part of service providers such as behaviour analysts. Although no data currently exist on the profiles of behaviour analysts in Ontario, previous studies that survey Board Certified Behaviour Analysts® worldwide indicate that behaviour analysts lack diversity, with over 80% identifying as white. Studies report that most behaviour analysts feel comfortable providing services to diverse clients, and that they feel skilled in their ability to do so. Despite this positive perception, most behaviour analysts report little or no education or training in diversity. We surveyed ABA service providers in Ontario about their demographic information, their education and training in working with diverse clients, and their comfort and perceived skill in providing services for diverse clients. Results mirrored those of previous studies and indicated that behaviour analytic service providers in Ontario are mostly white (78%), English speaking (89%), and non-immigrants (86%). Additionally, respondents reported high confidence in their ability to provide services to diverse clients, despite typically having little or no training in doing so. Implications and recommendations regarding education and training in cultural competence will be discussed.
Diversity submission 

CANCELED: Celebrating Neurodiversity: How Radical Behaviorism Must Include Radical Acceptance of Neurodiversity and Autistic Culture

(Service Delivery)
ALEXANDRA VASSAR (ABA Reform; Achieve Together Behavior Services)

Neurodiversity has long been discussed in the Autistic community but is just recently gaining traction in conversations of how the concept applies to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). A concept that comes out of the neurodiversity movement is understanding autism through the lens of culture. ABA throughout its history has promoted prioritizing normalization goals for autistic clients (Lovaas, 1981). Normalization goals force autistic people to mask their traits and deny their basic human needs. Autistic people subjected to this requirement to mask and deny their needs have an increased suicide rate in adulthood (Cassidy, 2018). By becoming culturally competent in understanding autistics and autism, and connecting autistic clients to their own culture, behavior analysts will go a long way in bridging the culture gap and minimizing their role in the trauma their clients experience just by existing. This talk will a) explore what autistic culture is and how autistic culture relates to the ethical obligation of behavior analysts to be culturally competent (BACB 1.05c), b) discuss the trauma associated with not having access to one’s culture, and c) challenge behavior analysts to generalize their skills with recognizing and calling out other acts of bigotry to the autistic population.

Diversity submission 

ABA is a Science: So What?

(Service Delivery)
JAMINE DETTMERING (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology; National Lewis University)

Autistic advocates have criticized Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for harmful practices grounded in ableism (Dawson, 2004; Lynch, 2019). A common response to ABA being characterized as abusive or harmful is to make a distinction between the science and practice of ABA. Although there is a topographical distinction between the scientific approach to discovering variables that influence behavior and the technology of behavior change that utilizes those research discoveries, the science of ABA is no exception to concerns voiced by the autistic community. Research goals, procedures, and outcomes are often based on the agenda of the researcher and neurotypical community, rather than the values of autistic participants and the autistic community. This presentation will (a) explore the historical roots of the science of ABA in ableism, (b) discuss contemporary examples of ableism in ABA research, (c) explore the efficacy of the ethics code and research practices as they relate to keeping autistic research participants safe, and (d) offer strategies to ensure the inclusion of autistic voices and the safety of research participants.

Diversity submission The Pragmatism of Cultural Humility in Experimental, Conceptual, and Applied Behavior Analysis
DIANA J. WALKER (Visions, LLC; The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Abstract: Categorizing phenomena helps us to respond to our world in effective ways; however, it can also create false dichotomies that limit our experience and hurt people and society. The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) has recently intensified efforts to promote inclusion and discourage social inequality in behavior analysis and in society in general. Within behavior analysis, though, there are false dichotomies that result in segregation of people and differential treatment, some of which is harmful to individual members, to the field of behavior analysis, and to society as a whole. Potentially harmful dichotomies include basic vs. applied, academician vs. practitioner, behavior analysis vs. other psychological/social sciences, etc. This presentation will describe harmful effects of segregating basic from applied behavior analysts, academicians from practitioners, behavior analysis from other disciplines, etc. and provide suggestions for decreasing such harmful practices. Instead of behaving in accordance with false dichotomies, behavior analysts should embrace cultural humility, a lifelong process of learning about cultural identity through openness, interpersonal relationships, and self-reflection/critique. By embracing cultural humility, experimental, conceptual, and applied behavior analysts will promote dialog and collaboration amongst each other and with other professionals, with pragmatic results.



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