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While there are no differences in ASD symptoms across different countries or ethnic groups, there are differences in the overall identification, particularly the cases of misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis in minorities.

What is Cultural Competence?

Cultural competence focuses on understanding and appropriate response to the unique combination of cultural, linguistic and individual diversity that the professional and client/patient/family bring to interactions.

The terms culture and linguistics refer to patterns of human behavior, including language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or other groups (e.g., gender identity/gender expression, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability) (ASHA, 2017).

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Why is Cultural Competence Important?

Differences do not imply deficiencies or disorders. Culture and language may influence  behaviors and attitudes of individuals seeking care. In turn, delivery of services is influenced by the values and experiences of providers. Culturally competent care means providing service that is respectful of, and responsive to, an individual’s values, preferences, and language. Care should not vary in quality based on ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, or other factors.

Federal and state regulations and programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), require that providers render culturally and linguistically appropriate services. These programs are in accordance with broader legislation such as Title VI, Executive Order 13166, and National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS).

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Where to Start?

Massachusetts Act Early created a skills-based training curriculum, Considering Culture in Autism Screening, an interactive, case-based training about culturally competent screening, evaluation, and referral to intervention services for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD):

Several organizations have also developed an implementation guides to help providers consider and implement policies that focus on cultural competence. Here are some of them:

Best Practice Highlights for Treating Diverse Patient Populations by the American Psychiatric Association

National Center for Cultural Competence: Getting Started and Moving on

A Physician’s Practical Guide to Culturally Competent Care

Indiana Department of Education: School Climate and Cultural Awareness

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What is Cultural Responsiveness?

Cultural responsive teaching or instruction refers to a “pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (Ladson-Billings, 1994, p. 382).  To be culturally responsive, teachers make content and curricula accessible to students in a way that students can relate to and understand, including embedding aspects of students’ daily lives into the curriculum. These could be language, prior knowledge, and interests. (ASCD, 2011).

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Additional Resources

National and Nationwide Resources:

National Center for Cultural Competence

National Institute of Health: Cultural respect

Department of Health and Human Services: Think Cultural Health

The Arc: Promoting Cultural Competence

State Resources:

Indiana State Department of Health

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