Representation in the ABA field

By Larry Aldridge III, Registered Behavior Technician

Can you recall the moment when you first heard the acronym “ABA”? I will never forget my introduction to ABA therapy. It was my sophomore year at Morehouse College and I was encouraged to attend a presentation arranged by the chair of our Psychology department. I was convinced to attend through the promise of pizza, but once I arrived my attention was quickly turned away from the food. I was immediately captivated by the stories that we were listening to. In that presentation, I found a love for ABA and a passion for pursuing representation in the ABA field.

My Introduction to ABA

Our presenter was a black woman who has worked in the ABA field for several years. She shared success stories, advice about entering the field, and the issue of representation within ABA therapy. We discussed how so many of the individuals receiving ABA therapy are people of color, yet most clinicians do not look the same as the clients we know and love. I was reminded that the key to a successful project is representation. It’s very important to precisely represent all communities, regardless of the project or service you may offer.

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The Current Reflection of Our Industry

As I look throughout the ABA field and observe the leadership teams at multiple agencies, I see the impact that we have on our clients. I see the way that we assist families in empowering their children. However, I also see the barriers we face due to a severe lack of representation. We provide exemplary services, but representation is an area that we, as a field, can stand to improve upon. Without accurate representation in our field, cultural barriers will continue to be prevalent and counterproductive to our work. It is vital that our teams reflect the diversity of the populations that we serve.

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Representation Matters

While we have made an impact as a field thus far, we must continuously work to increase representation and, by doing so, we can significantly decrease the number of cultural barriers we face while working to eliminate any unconscious biases that are at work. We must take steps to do effective and inclusive recruiting, and retention at both the direct service level and the leadership level. An increase in representation typically leads to higher success rates, an expansion of territory, and a happier workplace.

Organizational Steps Toward Representation

I believe that improved representation in our field would come through multiple steps and strategies. The first step would be to amplify the voices of and show appreciation for their current employees of color. These employees may already have ideas and strategies to diversify their workplace, as they would be fully aware of the challenges employees of color face within their particular company. Companies should also make sure their websites and all marketing publications are alike in diversity. This would include photos, wording, and reviews that would speak to the diversity that the company represents. These strategies would reach through the full scope of the company, not just at the base level.

As we move forward in a progressive society, I am happy to be a part of Kadiant. Our values of Pioneering and Kaizen (meaning “continuous improvement”) encourage us to be trailblazers within the ABA community while implementing new strategies and programs to improve representation in our field.