• Amrinder Babbra, M.S.

Cultural Competency Part 1

Amrinder Babbra, M.S. - Director of Behavioral Research

Photo by Andrew Benz

Throughout my childhood, I often found myself in a unique position of fusing the right balance between two different worlds: India, the country of my birth, and America, the country I grew up in and called home for most of my life. As one of two children to immigrant parents whom desired to stress the importance of traditional values in a country foreign to them, I often struggled with the question, who am I? I was not the traditional Indian son his parents tried to raise me to be, but at the same time, I was not like my peers in school and the workplace. As I would proceed in my personal and professional journey I would find that cultural competency would consistently play an important role and will continue to do so in the future.

For example, an emotional story that resonates most with me involved a mother seeking services for her child with autism spectrum disorder. In her country of origin Autism Spectrum Disorder was, and still is, a novel concept. She had traveled all over her home country to establish a medical diagnosis that would provide her with an answer on how to best help her child. She was fortunate enough to speak with a visiting American doctor who visited the country once a year to provide services. After speaking with the American doctor, she moved with her family to America to be able to provide the appropriate services for her child. Unfortunately, her decision was met with vitriol by members of her community and even more disheartening, by members of her own family. The prevailing beliefs consisted of the child was born this way so it was something she needed to accept and that it was inappropriate for her to let “outsiders” in on her family’s problems. As heartbreaking as it was to hear her story, with cultural awareness, it was not difficult to understand her position with compassion and empathy.

In the nation today, approximately 25% of the population comprises of first and second-generation immigrants. Within the next generation that number is expected to increase to approximately 40%. Speaking as a member of that group, my personal experiences and research have shown this particular subset of the population tend to be influenced by the familiarity heuristic, or bias, by “seeking out their own” in a new country due to the frames of coordination within their history of reinforcement. For behavior analysts and organizations, we believe it is important to attend to the change in demographics, and by extension, attend to the necessary change in how we provide services.

Because of the nature and design of this topic we will be discussing cultural competency as part of a series over the next few weeks.

This material is for general purposes only and does not replace the work of a trained behavioral professional. All information suggested in this blog post should only be done within your own scope of understanding. If you need further assistance, please find a behavioral professional to consult with.


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