Ableism and Apple Pie: Disrupting Majority Culture Assimilation in the Practice of Behavior Analysis
Evette Simmons-Reed (Ball State University)
Dr. Evette Simmons-Reed is an assistant Professor in the Applied Behavior Analysis graduate program, in the Department of Special education, at Ball State University. She was the 2019 President of the Division for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Exceptional Learners (DDEL) for the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Dr. Simmons-Reed, is the program manager for the Disability in Postsecondary Settings Graduate Certificate Program with and Emphasis in Autism, and the director and co-founder of the CAPS2 Mentor Program for Autistic College Students at the Ball State Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder (CASD).
She was a special education teacher in Columbus City Schools from 1994 through 1998, before returning to school full-time to pursue her masters. From 2001 through 2011, she served in multiple academic and vocational positions at the Ohio State School for the Blind, where in 2007, she was one of the recipients of the National Teaching Award from DCDT. Prior to joining the faculty at BSU, she was the Program Manager in the Special Education and Transition Department at The Ohio State University Nisonger Center, a University Center of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). Dr. Simmons-Reed obtained her Ph.D. in special education and applied behavior analysis from The Ohio State University in 2013.
As a tenure track faculty member at BSU, her research and expertise focus on mentoring, improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in and outside the classroom for Black children in particular, and children and youth with dis/abilities in general. Currently, her major research projects involve developing a family and student-centered model program that leverage campus resources, to increase access, persistence, and graduation of autistic college students. Other research projects involve improving the diversity and inclusion of students with dis/abilities in higher education settings including: developing curricula connecting majors and careers, the implementation of the Self-determined Learning Model of Instruction and Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS), to facilitate mastery and utilization of academic, personal, and social skills for college students on the autism spectrum. In addition, she is also interested in increasing cultural competence in teacher education programs, improving clinical practices for culturally and linguistically diverse students, and examining the intersections of race, ability, and gender on student and faculty retention.
Although not as tasty, ableism is as American as apple pie and is rooted in majority culture identities. Ableism is defined as a pervasive system that oppresses people with differing abilities while privileging people who are labeled as able-bodied. Majority culture refers to the ways in which those in power used the concept of race to create whiteness and a hierarchy of racialized value in order to disconnect and divide white people from Blacks, Indigenous, and other people of color, as well as define who is normal or abnormal (Tema Okun, 2021). The practice of applied behavior analysis inherently operates to perpetuate three main dimensions of ableism and privilege in that we operate to make those with the differing abilities account for their differences, treat them as being less than, and we measure our success on the extent to which the targeted behaviors fall in the “normal range.” The presentation will discuss the Ethical Code for Behavior Analysts, the imperfections of ethical guidelines, and the need for ethical and cultural competencies. Specifically, using examples of real-world behavior plans, publications, and the Ethical Code for Behavior Analysts, I will identify examples of ableism and bias attitudes and provide support for the need for development of ethical and cultural competencies for behavior analysts.