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Interview with Saundra Bishop, CEO and Clinical Director of BASICS ABA Therapy

By Kristin Thomas

1. What is your definition of equity, diversity, cultural humility here?

I guess to me it means that this company attempts to give equal voice to all stakeholders. That everyone has the ability to be a stakeholder regardless of demographic (anyone can be a client, RBT, BCBA). It means that we are constantly learning about equity, diversity, and cultural humility and applying that knowledge. It means we treat everyone with respect and do our best to educate people to challenge bias.

2. What is your goal of equity within BASICS?

I want to be sure to provide access to our services to as many people as possible and provide opportunities for employment without excluding people of diverse populations. Before COVID we had a lot of initiatives in place that supported this mission- we allowed staff to send their kids to aftercare for free, we accept vouchers, we accept Medicaid, we hire staff brand new to the field with high school diplomas and coach them up. However, when COVID happened the aftercare closed and so childcare and vouchers went away too. Our families that had Medicaid were more likely to live in multi-generational homes and so they stopped services and when training went remote the staff had a harder time with it because they were not used to a college like training environment since it wasn't hands on like it used to be. So, I really want to work on making this new normal more equitable. I also want to continue to grow and challenge myself and the entire team to do better.

3. Your BCBAs and RBTs provide ABA services to families from diverse populations how are they equipped in cultural competence?

Each of our staff take several different webinars through various companies in cultural humility. Also, we are members of the ABA taskforce and the Black Applied Behavior Analysts. All of our programs are assessed to make sure that they meet a cultural competence standard such as pictures of materials that match the skin color of the students and programming that is culturally relevant. Our intakes also include questions which ask parents about cultural needs and barriers so that we can ensure that we aren’t making assumptions about the cultural factors that the specific clients need in their programming.

4. Why is equity, diversity, cultural humility important?

This is a field predominantly dominated by middle-aged white women and particularly in the District of Columbia most of our clients are boys and young men of color. It’s important that we’re teaching social skills and communication skills that are appropriate for the communities our students live in and we’re not teaching them to act like white women. We also want to ensure that RBTs and BCBAs are trained in a way that makes them feel comfortable to be in this field. If people feel like they can only run programming in a certain way, then we will not be able to grow and change. Our field can only get better if we have a variety of voices.

5. What qualification does the teacher have to provide social and communication skills in communities of color?

It's a good question and something constantly evolving. Right now, we review social and communication goals through the lens of social justice movement writings, training and writings written by Autistic people and clinicians that are BIPOC. We also are very lucky to have a diverse staff, leadership team, and BCBA team and are able to run goals through the team as needed. However, the primary thing we do before starting an actual program is to check with the parent that the goal is being taught the way they want it taught.

6. Does your company, including leadership, receive and implement training on diversity, equity and inclusion?

Yes- All new hires and staff take an online training on diversity and humility. New hires also have an orientation with the CEO where we review cultural acceptance policies relating to disability, LGBTQ and race and ethnicity. We do continuous refreshers at team meetings. All our programming has a focus on cultural competency and diversity which is reviewed with the staff during their supervision sessions. Cultural competency is a key component of lesson planning in the Beyond the BASICS program as well.

7. How does equity, diversity and inclusion improve the quality of the work of all of BASICS’ staff as well as employee engagement?

Staff have said it makes them feel heard and more likely to go to HR with concerns or bring ideas and initiatives to leadership. Because these policies are in place it makes our programming more clinically appropriate. It also means that we have an amazing diverse team that can create our clinically appropriate programming.

8. You work with colleagues and clients from diverse populations. How important is cultural competence to you?

It is one of our most essential values. When we talk about our company being innovative, ethical or excellent, cultural competence falls within that ethical paradigm. I talk about this in every training I do. It applies to every area of our work whether it is trauma or training on mask wearing or COVID safety. Every single program you write needs to take into account cultural factors.

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