The field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) while it has been around for many years is still in many ways in the growth phases as a profession. Once such area is that of diversity and multicultural issues. It has only been within the past few years that meaningful conversations have really started to occur around the topic of multiculturalism and diversity issues in the field. I will give you a brief summary of the current status of the field in this area and opinions of where I think we still need to go.
CURRENT STATUS ON DIVERSITY
statistics are lacking
Unfortunately it is hard to know exactly the current status of minorities in the field of ABA because the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) does not report the demographics of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs), or Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs). The only data available are in regards to the number of certificants and the practice areas of those certificants. According to a study by Nosik & Grow (2015), the majority of behavior analysts are women (82.2%). This does not necessarily match the gender of individuals being served by behavior analysts. Data show that most behavior analysts tend to work in practice areas with individuals with autism and the majority of clients with autism are males with 1 in 37 boys being diagnosed with autism each year (Autism Speaks, 2018). Other than gender data, there is no publicly available demographic data pertaining to certified professionals in ABA through the BACB, Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), or the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) as it relates to race, ethnicity, religious/spiritual affiliation, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Therefore, there is no accessible information on the percentage of behavior analytic professionals identifying as minorities or belonging to other diverse groups. This is concerning because there is no understanding then if the population of behavior analytic professionals are matching the demographics of the populations being serviced with behavior analysis.
Where are the diversity training standards?
The field of behavior analysis currently is lacking training standards when it comes to multiculturalism and diversity issues. It could be argued that some areas of the BACB's Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts can apply to diversity related topics, such as 1.05(c) that discusses working with diverse groups, but the standards are still minimal in this area. Also, the most recent edition of the BACB Task List does not have any training standards related to diversity. This is concerning because this is the new edition that is going into effect with no new standards set for training future generations of behavior analysts to be culturally competent practitioners. Furthermore, for existing behavior analysts there are no continuing education requirements on diversity, like we have for ethics and supervision.
Within the past few years there have been growing conversations on the topic of multiculturalism and diversity issues in behavior analysis. This can be evident by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) making a conscious effort to include and highlight talks in their annual conference program last year in Chicago and including stickers for attendees to identify their preferred pronouns. Furthermore, ABAI's special interest group on Culture and Diversity has been active within ABAI to help shape the field in the direction of these conversations on diversity. Lastly, the journal, Behavior Analysis in Practice, recently had a special issue dedicated to the topic of diversity and equity in the practice of behavior analysis.
Where do we go from here?
This an exciting time to be involved in the field of behavior analysis because we have an opportunity to shape the field in a direction that can improve and enhance the profession further. Below are my suggestions of where we still need to go in terms of diversity and this is by no means an exhaustive list:
1. Release the demographic data. The first step in understanding the issue of diversity in our field would be for the BACB to release the demographic data of individuals holding BACB credentials so we can have a better understanding of the make up of the professionals in our field. This will help shape the conversation further about who we are as professionals.
2. Develop a diversity task force. There needs to be a diversity task force within the BACB and ABAI to examine the issues of recruitment, training, and retention of a diverse group of behavior analytic professionals in the field that is actively addressing this issue.
3. Create training standards on diversity. This ties into my other point about developing a diversity task force in that this group can also create training standards for the field to help us better prepare behavior analytic professionals not only in their graduate coursework, but also in the fieldwork and supervision requirements.
4. Have a continuing education requirement. For those behavior analytic professionals that already hold BACB credentials, the BACB should institute a mandatory training requirement. This will at least assist with bringing current credential holders up to speed then on issues of diversity in the field and how it may impact practice.
5. Conduct and publish more research with diverse populations. Continue to contribute to the science of behavior analysis and disseminate the science by publishing more research related to diversity issues.
In summary, there is still much to be done to further the field of behavior analysis in the are of multiculturalism and diversity and is one that I am excited to contribute towards its development. Share with me below in the comments on where you think we still need to go as a field in the area of diversity.