Culture, diversity and applied behavior analysis (ABA) are words that are recently beginning to be in conversations together. In 2016, I wrote a short blog on cultural responsiveness and applied behavior analysis (ABA). Over time I’ve thought more about the topic culture and ABA and why it’s so important for professionals in the ABA field. I decided a good addition to this blog would be an update of that original blog from 2016. In addition to refreshing the blog with new information, it was a great opportunity to look at my evolution in the field
Defining Culture and Its Impact on ABA
A great place to start a conversation about cultural responsiveness is to define culture. Culture is established by the shared values, beliefs and customs that are developed through common experiences. It grows into a system of rules that are the core of communities. With this definition of culture, we gain an understanding of the importance of culture in the individuals we work with, and how it shapes our interaction with others. By understanding culture at its core level (also referred to as deep culture) a therapist can evolve their practices to improve the learning experiences of all clients and their families.
The Role of Environment in ABA and Cultural Formation
The foundation of ABA looks at the antecedent (what comes before the behavior), the actual behavior and the consequence (what follows the behavior). What follows the behavior will either continue or strengthen the behavior or weaken the behavior. Therefore, the environment we live within could be providing a consequence which either strengthens or weakens the behavior. While the environment includes context components together it all begins to shape our culture and behavior. I love to say, culture is based on survival. I also love to say behaviors occur to get a need met, as a result, behavior take place to get needs met and when the need is met over time among a group of people the behavior becomes a culture. This developed culture is displayed in behaviors which get the need met of the individuals in the cultural group. With all of this being said how does this relate to ABA and behaviorist?
As a behavior analyst, we are often working toward removing a behavior which the child’s social environment has deemed “inappropriate”. Certainly many times the behaviors are not effective in giving the child a healthy lifestyle. We need to remember the behavior is getting a need met and may be effective in their current environment. We must also remember when determining a replacement behavior, the behavior is appropriate to the child’s culture community.
Integrating Cultural Awareness in ABA Practices
Research suggests that children can be successful when they are provided access to quality programs, services, and support that integrates their deep culture.
Also, children who are given the opportunity to explore their culture during the learning process and who are given varied experiences, feel acknowledged and valued.
The 4 Keys to Culturally Responsive ABA
Cultural responsiveness leads professionals to effectively work and serve children in cross-cultural settings. At The Key Consulting Firm, our goal is to give clients tools that will allow them to get their needs met while being members of their communities. The Keys to culturally responsiveness are:
- The first, approach the child, their family, and the community from a strength-based model.
- Second, When providing a definition of a target behavior, be as objective as possible.
- Third, include the culture of the learner in the learning process and ensure the replacement behavior is appropriate for the existing culture.
- Lastly, continue to learn about culture, diversity, and inclusion.
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