The Role of Culture and Diversity in ABA Treatment Plans: Creating Culturally Sensitive and Ethical Interventions Part 2

By: Nicole Gorden, M.S., BCBA, LBA

Read Part 1

As clinicians, it is our ethical responsibility to provide effective and culturally sensitive treatment for individuals with autism. Addressing diversity in treatment plans is essential to ensure that we meet the unique needs of each individual and create interventions that are respectful, inclusive, and meaningful. Cultural competence plays a crucial role in understanding the influence of culture, ethnicity, language, and other aspects of diversity on an individual’s development and behavior. By embracing diversity and actively incorporating cultural considerations into our treatment plans, we can enhance the effectiveness and social validity of our interventions. This post aims to provide practical strategies to use when creating treatment plans with a culturally sensitive approach. By doing so, we can foster better outcomes and promote equity, inclusion, and respect for all individuals and their families.

Addressing Diversity in Treatment Plans

When considering the social significance of behavior interventions, diversity and culture must be discussed. A comprehensive understanding of the individual’s culture allows us to make ethically sound decisions for treatment. By taking into account the cultural context, we can develop interventions that are relevant, meaningful, and promote the individual’s overall well-being.

Strategies to Incorporate Diversity and Culture when Creating your Treatment Goals

  1. Culturally Relevant Materials: Incorporate materials, resources, and activities that reflect the diversity of the individual’s cultural background. For example, if the child comes from a bilingual or multilingual family, provide materials in their native language to promote engagement and understanding.
  2. Collaborate with Families: Involve the family in the treatment planning process and seek their input regarding their cultural values, traditions, and goals for their child. Respect and incorporate their perspectives to create a collaborative and culturally responsive treatment plan.
  3. Cultural Contextualization of Goals: Tailor behavior change goals to be culturally meaningful and relevant. For instance, if the child comes from a culture where extended family support is highly valued, consider incorporating goals that foster social interactions and connections with extended family members.
  4. Understanding Social Norms: Familiarize yourself with the social norms, customs, and traditions of the individual’s culture. This knowledge can help guide treatment decisions and ensure that interventions align with the cultural expectations and values of the child and their family.
  5. Culturally Responsive Strategies: Adapt behavior change strategies to accommodate cultural differences. For instance, if the child comes from a culture that values communal decision-making, involve the extended family or community members in the treatment process and decision-making.
  6. Sensitivity to Religious Practices: Respect and accommodate religious practices within the treatment plan. Consider scheduling therapy sessions to avoid conflicts with religious obligations or incorporating religious rituals into the session if appropriate and desired by the family. You may even create goals on how to improve participation in religious environments that are significant to the child’s culture.
  7. Training and Professional Development: Continuously engage in cultural competency training and professional development to enhance your understanding of diverse cultures and build your skills in providing culturally sensitive treatment. Stay informed about current research and best practices in the field of cultural competence. Most importantly, if you do not feel competent to serve the client and address your potential cultural biases, it is vital to recognize your own difficulties and provide the family with another clinician that can better suit their needs, whenever possible.

By actively addressing diversity in treatment plans, we can create interventions that are respectful, inclusive, and effective for children with autism from diverse cultural backgrounds. It is essential to approach each child as an individual and tailor treatment plans to their unique needs, cultural values, and experiences.

About the Author

Nicole Gorden, M.S., BCBA, LBA has over 14 years of experience implementing Applied Behavior Analysis principles with the Autism Population. She currently works for Comprehensive Behavior Supports in Brooklyn, NY.

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