Recent research produced as a collaborative effort between the College of Education and Human Development and the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, “Increasing Access and Quality of Behavior-Analytic Services for the Latinx Population,” shines a light on some of the items preventing the Latinx community from reaching the quality of behavior-analytic care they deserve. This research also offers several systemwide approaches across multiple areas in the industry to help remedy this inequity.
“The Latinx population continues to grow year by year, and that means that the services we’re providing are also growing,” Mariela Castro-Hostetler, one of the three authors of the study and Northwest Projector Coordinator for Positive Behavior Support-Nevada, said. “We see the need there. We’re giving just one package to fit a family, and that just wasn’t working. I wanted something that was going to meet that population’s needs.”
The difficulties arising from a mismatch in culture between a client and practitioner can be numerous if the practitioner doesn’t take the proper steps to adapt their care to the client’s unique needs. One example of this is a language difference, where providing care through a translator was demonstrated to be an imperfect solution.
“We tried for years to provide translational services for the Spanish-speaking community, and it was not effective,” author, Assistant Research Professor in the College of Education & Human Development and Project Director of the Nevada Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Technical Assistance Center Ashley Greenwald said. “From an equitable and culturally relevant perspective, we must have the Latinx community represented in our printed materials but, more importantly, in our staff that delivers the training and interventions.”
Language can cause a domino effect of related problems, but culture itself can cause a gap between a client and practitioner. The authors of the study emphasized that it was important to let families know what services are available to them, how services can help their families and what they can do to advocate for their families’ traditions and personal goals to be implemented into treatment.
“There’s been a long history in psychology of us telling people what they need,” author and Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology Matthew Lewon said. “When you take a person’s cultural history and language circumstances into account, not only are you respecting their dignity, you’re more likely to be able to serve them in a way that is meaningful to them. After all, psychology is the science of the individual.”
Addressing this complicated web of related issues that prevent equitable access to behavioral-analytic services is incredibly difficult. When writing the paper, the authors felt that many other scholars in the field had done a good job of identifying individual actions to take and wanted to make sure their paper identified multiple specific areas where certain actions were appropriate. The actions suggested in their research can range from job postings made visible and accessible to members of the Latinx community to increased opportunities for pursuing leadership positions.
“There’s not one lever you can press that fixes all the issues,” Lewon said. “There are things that need to be done across so many different areas. We need to be training the people who are in our field to work with people whose families come from different cultural backgrounds, and we need to be researching to identify best practices in these areas.”