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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Invited Symposium #59
CE Offered: BACB
Diversity submission Cultural Biases in Assessment, Treatment, and Access to ABA Services
Saturday, May 29, 2021
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Michele R. Traub (St. Cloud State University)
Discussant: Elizabeth Hughes Fong (Pepperdine University)
CE Instructor: Michele R. Traub, Ph.D.

Though the principles of behavior are universal, the specific behaviors, stimuli, and social contingencies impacting our clients are rooted in the cultures in which they live. As behavior analysis grows around the world, the inherent biases and assumptions of our technology becomes more apparent. Assessment instruments need translation, revision, and validation; interventions need to be adapted to ensure social validity and relevance; and the ways in which behavior analysts provide services need to expand to ensure that they are accessible to all clients in need. This symposium will present strategies for behavior analysts to identify biases in their professional practices, minimize such biases when they arise, and learn to practice cultural humility.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Practitioners and researchers. 

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe applicability of diversity, equity, and inclusion and analyze their own self-bias as related to cultural differences; (2) engage in ethical problem-solving frameworks as related to culturally humble and responsive behaviors; (3) identify the topography of culturally humble behaviors in our research and practice; (4) describe ways to engage in institutional accountability and systems change towards increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion through the engagement of culturally humble behaviors; (5) describe values procedures for increasing their own behaviors oriented toward social justice; (6) identify specific behaviors they could do more of in their own lives that may strengthen their work as accomplices for social justice; (7) describe how to use self-monitoring plans to increase their own behaviors oriented toward social justice; (8) discuss the role that culture plays in behavior analytic interactions; (9) list barriers for international dissemination of behavior analysis; (10) desribe two existing models for the documentation of cultural adaptations made to interventions. 
Diversity submission 

The Role of Culture for the Global Dissemination of Behavior Analysis

MAITHRI SIVARAMAN (Ghent University, Belgium; Tendrils Centre for Autism, India), Tara A. Fahmie (California State University, Northridge)

The cultural and linguistic diversity that characterizes the world remains a seminal barrier for the global uptake of applied behavior analysis (ABA). Although North America accounts for only 4.7% of the world’s population, more than 95% of BCBAs live in the United States and Canada. While behavioral principles may be universally applicable, this talk will argue for why understanding cultural diversity and avoiding prejudice is important. We will discuss specific challenges for the global dissemination of ABA, with India as an example, and suggest potential training strategies with which to overcome such barriers. Our training protocol may serve as an initial framework for practitioners and researchers to achieve buy-in and positive outcomes internationally. In addition, we will highlight existing frameworks to define and describe cultural adaptations and list previously used adaptations in ABA-based treatments for individuals outside of North America. Finally, we will advocate for a behavior analytic perspective for organizing and reporting potentially relevant variables for the global success of ABA services.

Maithri Sivaraman is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a Masters in Psychology from the University of Madras and holds a Graduate Certificate in ABA from the University of North Texas. She is currently enrolled as a doctoral student in Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium. In 2016, Sivaraman established the Tendrils Centre for Autism Research and Intervention in Chennai, India to make behavior analytic services more accessible to families with children with developmental disabilities. With Dr. Tara Fahmie, she is the co-recipient of a dissemination grant from the Behavior Analysis Certification Board’s (BACB) Committee of Philanthropy to train caregivers in function-based assessments and interventions for problem behavior in India. Her research focusses on social and verbal behavior interventions for children with disabilities, and cultural considerations in the dissemination of behavior analysis. She has served as Guest Reviewer for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis since 2018, and is the International Dissemination Coordinator of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT).
Diversity submission 

Lessons Learned From Behavior Analysts of Color on How to Become Stronger Accomplices

JONATHAN TARBOX (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids), Brandon Whitfield (Autism Therapies), Jacqueline Ramirez (University of Southern California ; Positive Behavioral Supports Corporation)

Since the rise of the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements, and especially since the murder of George Floyd, the field of behavior analysis is experiencing tremendous growth in action toward social justice. This growth of action and activism within our field is exciting but many have concerns over how much of this change is actually structural, versus performative, and therefore whether or not it will persist over time. From the perspective of a white man in a position of substantial privilege and power within the field of behavior analysis, I will stand next to and amplify the voices of behavior analysts of color who have offered powerful and practical resources to all of us to create and sustain our roles as accomplices in furthering social justice. This presentation will amplify recent publications by behavior analysts of color on practical strategies for enacting social justice within our own personal lives, within the service provision agencies where we work, and within our graduate programs, among others. In particular, practical strategies from behavioral approaches to self-management, including acceptance and commitment training, will be shared.

Dr. Jonathan Tarbox is the Program Director of the Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program at the University of Southern California, as well as Director of Research at FirstSteps for Kids. Dr. Tarbox is the past Editor-in-Chief of the journal Behavior Analysis in Practice, a Board Member of the ABA Task Force to Eradicate Social Injustice, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Women in Behavior Analysis (WIBA) conference. He has published five books on applied behavior analysis and autism treatment, is the Series Editor of the Elsevier book series Critical Specialties in Treating Autism and Other Behavioral Challenges, and an author of over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters in scientific texts.  His research focuses on behavioral interventions for teaching complex skills to individuals with autism, Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT), and applications of applied behavior analysis to issues of diversity and social justice. 

Diversity submission 

DEI, Bias, and Cultural Humility: Putting It All Together for Social Justice Change

NASIAH CIRINCIONE-ULEZI (ULEZI, LLC; Pivot 2 Inclusion; The Chicago School of Professional Psychology; Capella University), NOOR YOUNUS SYED (SUNY Empire State College; Anderson Center International; Endicott College)

The pressing need to engage in compassionate, culturally humble behavior as a field became apparent following the needless deaths of those such as Mr. George Floyd; the world at large recognized the importance of social justice and, as behavior analysts, we are uniquely poised to engage in systems change and create levels of institutional accountability throughout all aspects of our work. This dialogue will discuss culture as a dynamic metacontingency and will focus on understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as related to all cultures. We will analyze our own self-bias and will describe ethical problem-solving frameworks designed to increase DEI through the engagement of culturally humble behaviors as practitioners and researchers. Finally, we will review ways to implement measures of institutional accountability to assess whether we are meeting our goals of DEI. We will end by inviting questions from the audience to promote thoughtful considerations intended to further our understanding of the topography of culturally humble behaviors and how we can begin immediately to engage in social justice change.

Nasiah is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, with a Doctorate degree in Education from Loyola University of Chicago. She holds a Master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Master's degree in Educational Leadership from the American College of Education. She is a graduate of the Infant Studies Specialist program at Erikson Institute of Chicago. In addition to her BCBA credential, she is an Illinois licensed special education teacher and an Illinois Early Intervention provider and State evaluator. Professionally, she has served as a special educator, clinician, educational administrator, and professor of special education. Her clinical experience spans infancy through adulthood. Currently, she is the CEO & Founder of ULEZI, LLC, Co-Founder of Pivot 2 Inclusion and serves as a court appointed special advocate, for children in the Illinois foster care system. She is also an Advisory Board member for Black Applied Behavior Analysts and a Board member for the Illinois Association for Behavior Analysis. She has assisted school districts in the State of Illinois in developing meaningful educational programs to meet the needs of students with autism. Her research interests include supervision, mentoring, leadership, and culturally humble practice within the field of ABA. She is a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion and is deeply committed to using her skills and experiences, paired with the science of applied behavior analysis, to empower the lives of the people she supports and serves, in positive and meaningful ways.

Noor Syed, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA/LBS, (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Applied Behavior Analysis, Clinical Coordinator, and founding Director of the Center for Autism Inclusivity (Research, Education, and Services) with SUNY Empire State College. She is also a Senior International Program Director with Anderson Center International, an Adjunct Professor Advisor in ABA with Endicott College, and Research Coordinator for the Global Autism Project.  She is a certified general and special education teacher in New York, U.S., birth through grade six. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Syed has worked with individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities from early intervention through adulthood in school and center-based settings as a teacher, therapist, consultant, and administrator. Dr. Syed has consulted for autism clinics around the world, including in Uganda, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Czech Republic, and currently serves as the international and school-based expert on with Dr. Jon Bailey. She assisted in building Lehigh University Autism Services and its corresponding practicum, which is an insurance and university-based program offering services in the home, community, and clinic. Dr. Syed’s interests lie in compassionate care, cultural humility, ethical practices, supervision, the practice of school-based BCBAs, and diversity. She received her undergraduate degree in ABA under Dr. Raymond G. Romanczyk in the Institute of Child Development at Binghamton University and completed her PhD in ABA with Dr. R. Douglas Greer at Teachers College, Columbia University.




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