Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


46th Annual Convention; Online; 2020

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #358
Diversity submission Cultural Responsiveness, Social Justice, and Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 25, 2020
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Chair: Carol Pilgrim (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
CE Instructor: Shahla Ala'i, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: SHAHLA ALA'I (University of North Texas)

The voice and inclusion of people of diverse cultural identities is expanding within the world and within our discipline. This expansion presents both tensions and possibilities. Ideally, applied behavior analysts should be developing increasingly more cultural responsiveness in all aspects of research and practice. That is not the case. Cultural responsiveness is closely yoked with lived experience, social justice, and the kyriarchy. The purpose of this presentation is to explore worldviews in the context of coloniality and to then relate this to our disciplinary and personal responses to power and efforts to contribute to a more socially just world. This includes consideration of global trends, the aims and history of our discipline, womanist and determinist worldviews, and ethics. The presentation will close with a discussion of pathways to cultural responsiveness and social justice.

Target Audience:

Behavior analysts interested in culture, social justice, applied research, practice

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify the critical features of cultural responsiveness; (2) briefly identify the context for cultural responsiveness (global trends, coloniality, aims and history of our discipline, womanist and determinist worldviews, and ethics); (3) discuss pathways for advancement of cultural responsiveness in behavior analytic research and practice.
SHAHLA ALA'I (University of North Texas)
Shahla Ala’i received her B.S. from Southern Illinois University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas (UNT) and the director of the North Texas Autism Project (NTAP). NTAP is a service, training and research program working in cooperation with several global partners, with applied anthropologists, and with Easter Seals North Texas. Shahla is also a member of a social justice collective at UNT. This is an interdisciplinary effort designed to create a space for applied research and activism in social justice and includes faculty and students from Woman’s and Gender Studies, Applied Anthropology and Behavior Analysis. Shahla teaches classes on ethics, autism intervention, parent training, applied research methods, and behavior change techniques. Shahla served on the governing board of the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) and as a subject matter expert on supervision and on ethics. Shahla currently serves on the ABAI Practice Board and the APBA Diversity Ad Hoc Task Force. She has published and presented research on ethics in early intervention, play and social skills, family harmony, change agent training, and evidence-based practice. Her research is applied and grounded in a commitment to love and science. She has trained hundreds of master’s level behavior analysts who have gone on to serve families and communities with honor. Shahla has over four decades of experience working with families, particularly those from non-dominant cultural backgrounds. She travels and presents her work nationally and internationally to both professional and lay audiences. She was awarded an Onassis Foundation Fellowship for her work with families, was the recipient of UNT’s prestigious student selected “Fessor Graham" teaching award, and received the Texas Association for Behavior Analysis Career Contributions Award in 2019.



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