Culture and Language Inclusion in the Practice of Applied Behavior Analysis: A Call to Action
Presented by Dr. Crystal Hernandez and Natalie Williams Awodeha
Failure to consider culture, across systems of care, not only violates our ethical standards, it also perpetuates a system of oppression within the ABA industry, and in the larger health care context in the United States (U.S.). The twin purposes of this article are to discuss disparities in autism service delivery, and to provide an overview of recommended practice parameters, guided by the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], Office of Minority Health, 2016). Now is the time for ABA providers to acknowledge our own skill deficits and modify our maladaptive behaviors that have led many to question the relevance of our field, as a whole.
About the Presenters
Dr. Crystal Hernandez, MBA, Psy.D., Executive Director, State of Oklahoma Forensic Psychiatric State Hospital
Dr. Crystal Hernandez is a psychologist, forensic mental health administrator for the State of Oklahoma, Tribal disabilities expert, researcher, and autism mother. She serves as the first DEI Officer for the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, focusing on equitable and inclusive policy, program, and community engagement. She works with Tribal parents throughout their autism journey, and has worked with Indian Health Services (IHS) to allow for medically necessary treatment for Autistic Tribal members. In 2021, IHS nominated her to the U.S. Interagency Coordinating Council for Autism for her work with the Tribal communities. She serves as an expert working on Tribal projects with the National Council on Disability and the State of the States of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. She believes in service to others and works relentlessly to improve clinical treatments, diagnosis, equitable access to care, and inclusion for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as those with mental health and substance use disorders. Dr. Hernandez serves on the Joint Committee representing ODMHSAS in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for those justice impacted individuals that cross both organizations in need of placement and treatment recommendations. She serves as the Executive Director for Oklahoma’s sole Forensic Psychiatric Hospital and is an active participant in her Tribe (Cherokee Nation). Dr. Hernandez prides herself on criminal justice reform efforts, justice, and building an inclusive world. She is a strong advocate and ally, with a desire to improve all lives and systems.
Natalie Williams Awodeha, PhD, BCBA, LBA, CRC, Clinical Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Originally from Oklahoma City, Natalie holds a B.A. in Psychology from The University of Oklahoma, M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Langston University, and Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Ohio University. She completed the BACB-approved course sequence at Florida Institute of Technology. Research interests include cultural and linguistic inclusion in ABA, employment disparities for African Americans with cognitive disabilities, and workplace culture within the field of ABA. Natalie currently works as a BCBA in Seattle, and teaches remotely at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Northcentral University. She plans to gain additional experience delivering high quality ABA services to adolescents and young adults, while also pursuing the BCBA-D. She is also advocating for culture and language inclusion within the practice of ABA, along with development of culturally responsive standards within practitioner preparation programs and licensing and credentialing bodies.