Cultivating Inclusion: A Guide to Effective Communication in Culturally Inclusive Behavioral Services

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In an increasingly diverse society, it’s imperative that behavioral services like ABA therapy are accessible, respectful, and beneficial for everyone. To meet this goal, we need to focus on enhancing effective communication through culturally inclusive practices. This blog post will walk you through key terms, self-assessment techniques, and practical activities to cultivate cultural inclusivity in your practice.

Key Terms in Cultural Inclusion


Culture refers to the shared beliefs, norms, and practices that define a particular group of individuals. It can be broad (e.g., nationality) or specific (e.g., a professional culture). Culture shapes how we interact with each other and how we view the world. It can also provide a sense of identity, belonging, and purpose. 

Cultural Competency

Cultural competency is the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures, recognizing and respecting their perspectives. It involves understanding cultural beliefs, customs, and language, as well as having an appreciation for cultural diversity. This is important because it allows people to interact with others from different backgrounds in a way that is respectful and understanding.

Cultural Humility

Cultural humility involves an ongoing willingness to self-reflect and critique one’s own assumptions about people from different cultures. It requires a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and an openness to learning about different values, beliefs, and practices. It also requires developing and maintaining relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Cultural humility is essential for building effective cross-cultural relationships.

Cultural Responsiveness

Cultural responsiveness is the practice of actively considering cultural factors when providing services and making decisions. It requires not only understanding the cultural context of the people being served, but also being able to recognize and address potential cultural biases and disparities in service delivery. By considering cultural factors, services can be tailored to the specific needs of different populations.

Cultural Inclusivity

Cultural inclusivity is a proactive effort to incorporate the perspectives and needs of diverse groups into services, policies, and procedures. For instance, incorporating the needs of the disabled community into the design of a public building or accommodating cultural norms and expectations into an organization’s operations.


The act of actively engaging with someone else’s message. In a cultural context, listening often involves understanding both verbal and non-verbal cues. Listening is a skill that must be practiced and honed in order to be effective. It is a skill that can be used to build trust, foster relationships, and create understanding between people.

Intercultural Communication

The practice of exchanging ideas across different cultures and social groups, aiming for mutual understanding and respect. For example, a company with a global workforce may use intercultural communication to ensure that all employees understand the company’s policies and procedures, regardless of their cultural backgrounds.

The Role of Self-Assessment

Self-assessment in cultural inclusivity involves three key areas:

  • Awareness: Recognize your own cultural perspectives and how they influence your work.
  • Knowledge: Educate yourself about other cultures and their specific needs.
  • Skills: Develop strategies and methods to interact effectively with clients from diverse backgrounds.

The ADDRESSING Model Activity

The ADDRESSING model stands for Age, Developmental and acquired Disabilities, Religion, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic status, Sexual orientation, Indigenous heritage, National origin, and Gender. This activity allows you to identify potential areas where cultural biases could affect service delivery.


  • List each category from the model.
  • Reflect on how each area may influence your interactions with clients.
  • Devise strategies to mitigate potential biases.

Wheel of Power/Privilege

The Wheel of Power/Privilege is a framework that helps visualize how various social and systemic factors intersect to confer privilege or marginalization. Understanding this wheel can help you identify areas where you need to be especially sensitive or adaptive in your practice.

Recommendations for Culturally Inclusive Behavioral Services:

  • Regular Training: Keep staff updated on cultural competence and inclusivity.
  • Community Partnerships: Collaborate with local organizations that represent diverse communities.
  • Flexible Treatment Plans: Adjust plans to be culturally sensitive.
  • Client Feedback: Regularly solicit and act on feedback from a diverse client base.
  • Willingness, Commitment, Obstacles, and Strategies Activity


Culturally inclusive behavioral services are not just an ethical necessity but also contribute to more effective and holistic care. Through self-assessment, awareness, and active engagement, we can all contribute to a more inclusive and equitable environment for behavioral therapy.

We hope this guide serves as a useful starting point for enhancing effective communication in culturally inclusive behavioral services. Your commitment to this journey not only enriches your practice but also makes a meaningful difference in the lives of all your clients.

About the Author:
Dr. Natalia Baires is a bilingual (English-Spanish) BCBA-D specializing in culturally responsive interventions and social justice in behavior analysis. She serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Director at Southern Illinois University, and is the President of the Illinois Association for Behavior Analysis. Currently, she co-chairs the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee for the American Psychological Association’s Division 25. Dr. Baires is also co-editing a special issue on Latin American Women leaders in behavior analysis. With a multidimensional approach, she is committed to fostering equity and compassionate care in the field.



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