Celebrating Caribbean Heritage Month: Insights from Leaders in Applied Behavior Analysis

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Caribbean Heritage Month offers a perfect occasion to highlight the significant contributions of Caribbean professionals in Applied Behavior Analysis. The diverse cultural backgrounds and unique perspectives they bring to the practice are invaluable, shaping inclusive and effective ABA services. 

Below we feature interviews with two distinguished professionals: May Beaubrun, Chief Diversity Officer for Brett DiNovi and Associates, and Kimberly Woolery, one of our incredible Customer Success Consultants at Motivity and an experienced BCBA.

How has your Caribbean heritage influenced your approach and philosophy in Applied Behavior Analysis?

MB: As a Haitian American, I was raised in a family that values family above all else. This strong sense of family helped me understand the importance of parent training and how to better include families in the client’s ABA therapies by evaluating the social validity not only of the client but also of the family and relevant stakeholders to ensure best practices.

KW: My Caribbean heritage has greatly influenced the way I approach Applied Behavior Analysis. I view the world from a culturally sensitive lens and apply it to all aspects of my work, from assessment and treatment planning phases to providing supervision and, more importantly, family guidance. You must humbly approach families from diverse backgrounds and understand which factors impact treatment and which could be a barrier. I have also found that the typical model of ABA is unfortunately not inclusive; therefore, you have to reinvent the wheel. I always aim to incorporate materials, stimuli, and goals relevant to the family’s needs. I enjoy working with Caribbean families from the diaspora. This has also pushed me to disseminate information to the general behavior analytic community. I realized a gap in the literature and research when I started working in the Jamaican community several years ago.

Can you share a memorable experience where your cultural background played a key role in your ABA practice?

MB: I am a second-generation immigrant born of two foreign-born parents. As early as preschool, I learned to ‘code switch’ between being Haitian and being American when selecting what language to speak and what behavior would be considered playful in some settings and disrespectful in others. Navigating various social settings was challenging, and the consequence was embarrassment if I didn’t follow the right code. This truly helped me empathize with individuals who may have a deficit in social skills and have difficulty picking up on social cues. I found this has made me more compassionate and thoughtful when developing interventions to increase prosocial behaviors by capitalizing on the client's strength as opposed to forcing them to “fit in”. Cultural climates vary so much that how will any of us truly “fit in”?

KW: A memorable experience for me was when a caregiver shared her excitement, saying that we Caribbean people had to stay together. She also could vent to me about her challenges with immigrating to the United States and feeling a sense of belonging. The clinical team is comprised entirely of people from the Caribbean. She shared that she felt previous providers would brush off her concerns and ignore her prior. I always knew that representation was important, but seeing the relief on her face, that I personally know what she was experiencing - the cultural dissonance of trying to assimilate to American society while trying to retain your sense of self as a proud Caribbean woman can be draining and exhausting. Many people don’t realize a lot of individuals who migrate to the US experience cultural dissonance, “a phenomenon that may present itself when individuals that participate in multiple cultures (most of us) are faced with situations where s/he perceives conflicts between a set of rules from one culture and the rules of another. This phenomenon may even appear in the same culture (across “subcultures”)” (Montano & Montano, 2013). She has always emphasized that we work as a team to help her child. I sensed that she felt more at ease connecting with me, and she shared, “I know I can talk to you because you understand. We are all the same; we were just dropped off at different places.”

What unique challenges and opportunities do you see for ABA providers in the Caribbean, and how do you think Motivity can help address these?

MB: The unique opportunities for ABA providers in the Caribbean are to continue research in a novel setting and to continue to disseminate the science of behavior analysis. The unique challenges I see for ABA providers in the Caribbean are meeting the growing needs, having sufficient training and educational opportunities for future behavior analysts, and keeping up with the changes in credentialing and board certification. Motivity can help address these challenges by offering continuing education for International Behavior Analysis Certifications as well as the Qualified Applied Behavior Analysis Credentialing Board. Also, Motivity has many resources on its website, including the Top Autism Trends 2024: Autism Facts. These resources can be available in other languages to increase accessibility.

KW: There are several barriers that I think Caribbean providers face, which include limited insurance funding and the history of colonialism, which impacts all Caribbean islands due to the history of slavery. I think Motivity should continue to offer CEUs that help mold the minds of upcoming behavior analysts and continue highlighting the work of the Caribbean community and the diaspora. It would also be fantastic to offer continuing education in different languages so that we can reach a wider audience through our platform.

About Our Interviewees

Kimberly Woolery (She/Her), M.S., BCBA

Kimberly is a dedicated professional with over a decade of experience in ABA. She is passionate about advancing the ethical and practical use of Telehealth services, believing strongly in its potential to provide essential services to neurodiverse individuals in underserved areas. Kimberly's commitment to breaking geographical barriers led her to initiate a Telehealth Pilot Project with World Evolve Inc. in 2016, showcasing her innovative approach to expanding access to ABA services.

Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Kimberly offers a unique perspective on the cross-cultural challenges faced by the Jamaican population, the Jamaican diaspora, and the broader BIPOC community globally. Her experiences have driven her to focus on implementing culturally responsive and sensitive services, disseminating information, and collaborating with like-minded professionals to educate practitioners on adapting treatment protocols to be culturally relevant.

Kimberly has shared her insights at various national and international conferences, including the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) conference, reflecting her dedication to advancing the field. She is actively involved in ABAI, the Culture and Diversity Special Interest Group (SIG), the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis (FABA) Multicultural SIG, and the Michigan Association for Behavior Analysis (MiABA).

Kimberly's academic achievements include a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Psychology from Florida International University and an M.S. in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis from Nova Southeastern University. She extends her commitment to education by hosting webinars and providing continuing education opportunities, reflecting her belief in the transformative power of culturally responsive practices in ABA.

May Chriseline Beaubrun, M.S., BCBA

May Chriseline Beaubrun has been a Board Certified Behavior Analyst for over a decade. Currently, she serves as the Director of Diversity and Training at Brett DiNovi & Associates. May has extensive experience working with children and adults with various cognitive, developmental, and physical disabilities across different settings, including clinics, hospitals, homes, and schools.

Her work encompasses conducting program evaluations, developing skill acquisition programs, providing parent training, conducting functional behavior assessments (FBAs), developing Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs), and training staff at various professional levels. May's expertise spans teaching academic areas, cognitive functioning, social skills, language and communication, and adaptive skills.

May has presented at prominent conferences such as the Autism New Jersey convention, the ABAI conference, the California Association for Behavior Analysis (CalABA) conference, and the New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis (NJABA) conference. Additionally, she has served as an adjunct professor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and contributed a chapter to the book "A Scientific Framework for Compassion and Social Justice on Behavior Analysis and Urban Planning."

May's diverse experiences within the field of ABA highlight her commitment to promoting inclusive practices and advancing the science of behavior analysis.

References
Montano, A. D., & Montano, D. (2013, November 3). Cultural dissonance. Framework 21. https://multispective.wordpress.com/2007/04/29/cultural-dissonance

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