Autism Occupational Therapy
Resource Toolkit

Understanding Autism as a Culture & Embedding Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Principles into our Work

Why Consider Autism Culture, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in Our Work?

“Culture influences the manner in which families, health care providers (HCPs), and society comprehend and treat developmental disorders. Particularly with ASD and the behavioral criteria required for diagnosis, the influence of cultural norms on subjective considerations for behaviour norms can present a disconnect between HCPs and parents. Additionally, management or treatment strategies will also be biased towards cultural beliefs. Once HCPs have a better understanding of the families’ views and preferences, strategies and management can be tailored to increase the probability of acceptance of the diagnosis and adherence to management strategies.” –  Balasingham & Sivapalan

This section contains resources to help encourage self-reflection on your biases and assumptions, and resources to learn more about being culturally responsive when supporting autistic individuals.  

Balasingham and Sivapalan provide a toolkit to encourage health care providers to be more culturally responsive when working with autistic individuals and their families. 

This document provides the first set of unified competencies for occupational therapists working in Canada. It is a collaboration between: Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy Regulatory Organizations, Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy University Programs and Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. The competencies are divided into 6 domains. Culture, Equity and Justice is one of the 6 domains.

This position statement from CAOT outlines key recommendations for OTs working with autistic individuals and their families. The paper outlines the important role that OTs play in provision of services to autistic individuals with a focus on supporting clients’ sensory needs.

Visit Equity and Justice at CAOT for access to many resources on topics such as truth and reconciliation, racism in OT, and oppressions and inequities that impact health systems.

OSOT presents many resources to promote awareness of and reflection on the history of racism, discrimination, and oppression within the systems in which OTs work. Resources include learning modules, videos, JEDI toolkit, etc.

Additional resources can be found on the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO) website to further deepen OTs understanding of topics related to Culture, Equity and Justice.

A CAOT professional development webinar presented by Erin Clow, assistant professor at Queen’s University. It is an introductory webinar that explores concepts related to equity, diversity and inclusion. Particular focus is given to understanding how these concepts intersect and impact the professional practice of occupational therapists.

Stephanie Lancaster, OTR joins the Seniors Flourish podcast to talk about diversity, inclusion and implicit bias. Explores implicit bias and how it impacts interactions and work with clients. Offers strategies to address and reduce the impact of bias on OT clinical decision making.

Peggy McIntosh explores and questions her white priviledge. She notes daily conditions that she can count on due to the colour of her skin. She reflects on her white priveldge and what actions can she take being aware of her priviledge to break down and reconstruct some power systems.

This is a full event from U21 Autism Research Netowrk on diversity and inclusion. Speakers include many autistic self advocates discussing their experiences and the importance of diversity and inclusion in autism research.

This free downloadable toolkit was designed for diagnosticians working with South Asian and Black families of autistic children and youth. This training aims to provide a greater understanding of the barriers these families may face, to provide strategies for effective communication, and strategies to help create a more inclusive assessment/treatment environment. The toolkit also reviews concerns about the current diagnostic tools used for ASD.

Visit this link to the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) for educational resources on neurodiversity. Resources include books, webinars, Ted Talks, podcasts and accounts to follow on Instagram.

Cultural competence includes providing effective health care across diverse cultures by working collaboratively and communicating effectively. This practice resource explores cultural competence and applies the LEARN model in different examples of cross cultural communication (Listen, Explain, Acknowledge, Recommend, Negotiate).

In this podcast, Jules Edwards, who is Anishinaabe and Autistic, talks about culturally responsive therapy for supporting Native Autistic kids.

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