IDD Sterilization

by Maria Gebhardt, Univeristy of Massachusetts Lowell

Sterilization of the intellectually and developmentally disabled: An act of protection or modern day eugenics?

In 2014, a mother in Iowa forced her 20-year-old son, who has an intellectual disability, to undergo a vasectomy. The son did not consent, sued, and won- but not because he did not consent to the vasectomy; he won because his mother failed to get the courts permission prior to the procedure (Volokh, 2014).

Compulsory sterilization (sterilization without consent) remains prevalent in the intellectually and developmentally disabled community to this day. Though the practice of forced sterilization is illegal, the laws have loopholes and do not protect most of those deemed incompetent. These individuals are being coerced into vasectomies, hysterectomies, and tubal ligations oftentimes with no informed consent.

So many questions arise when discussing this topic: Is this sterilization ethical? Would we be better off allowing them to bear children? Should we educate and let them choose? Is birth control an option or is that also unethical? Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD’s) vary so greatly that it becomes hard to determine at what point we are no longer advocating for and protecting them and instead taking away their right to choose.

I have personally encountered a woman with an IDD who had a hysterectomy and thought she would one day become a mother, had once had a child and had a tubal ligation post-delivery without her personal consent, and many who took oral contraception daily without their knowledge. Even knowing these women personally, I don’t know which, if any, of these situations were ethical, although, I am certain they would not function effectively as parents. They did not have the knowledge or skills to care for a baby, at least not independently. Some of these women did have the desire to have a child though; perhaps allowing them to have a baby and placing them in an open adoption could have been an alternative? We don’t sterilize women in prison, or those with drug addictions or even those who have been found guilty of child abuse in the past, so why single out the IDD community?

Accompanied by the question of their right to choose is the issue of the risks of sterilization surgeries. Tubal ligations and vasectomies are relatively low risk but hysterectomies are still major surgeries, with significant risks. It is not ethically or morally right to put an individual through a major surgery to prevent pregnancy, especially without their informed consent.

Daily oral contraception can appear to be the “happy medium” but also raises some concerns. When a woman takes daily birth control, she receives plentiful information prior to receiving a prescription and she knows exactly why she is going to be taking it. Many individuals with IDD’s cannot comprehend the purpose and risks of the contraception. Almost all of these individuals take daily medication for health issues without comprehension of why they are being taken, which is understandable and ethical, but they are necessary for health and oral contraception is not.

Placing aside all ethical concerns and even medical concerns, a larger question remains: why are we ignoring the sterilization of individuals with IDD’s? This is a prime example of eugenics existing in today’s society. Are we taking away their ability to procreate in order to protect them from the health concerns of pregnancy and the trials of parenting? It is more likely that we are avoiding the risk of them having a child with an IDD and someone else having to raise and care for that child. If it is, as I suspect, the priority to avoid them passing on the disability and secondly, to protect them, then we, as an educated, developed, society, are allowing and ignoring eugenics. Maybe allowing them to procreate is not the answer but should they not have some say in that themselves? In ignoring the issue of compulsory sterilization, we are failing these individuals. The ethics on this matter may never be clear, but certainly the conversation should exist. #UML #commpsych


Volokh, E. (2014, April 18). Sterilization of the “intellectually disabled”. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Maria Gebhardt is a graduate student in Community Social Psychology Deaprtment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Spread the Word, to End the Word


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by Helena Whitlow

When is it ok to use the word “retarded”? Well, I can tell you right now, it’s never. The word itself is so demeaning and derogatory, that it’s often spread around to describe something, or someone, who is beingdumb, absurd, illogical, childish etc. If you’re a Bostonian like I am, you hear that word being used A LOT. I was out to dinner with my younger brother and his friends, who are all in high school, andstill trying to navigate throughout the world. We were all having casual conversations, and one of my brother’s friends blurts out “THAT’S SO RETARDED!”Working in the field of autism, I got really upset and instantly replied back saying “that’s not a term to be thrown around you know?” He looked at me puzzled, confused, and thought I was being a “witch,” for lack of a better term. Using that word can really affect someone’s attitudes and actions, and cause pain to those around us. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the r-word is not just a clinical term, but a phrase. So, how can we spread the word, to end the word?

The word “retarded” is defined as “slow or limited intellectual or emotional development or academic progress” (“Retarded”, 2015). This term has been used for years in clinical practice in diagnosing an individual as “mentally retarded”, but as years go on, that phrase ensues a negative label. How did this word go from being a clinical term to slang? There’s an organization called “Spread the Word, to End the Word,” where people across the world can pledge their support to eliminating this derogatory term. The website uses the aspects of community psychology to help solve the problem, setting the standard that we as a geosystem, need to create more acceptance and better attitudes towards everyone with or without a disability. The organization utilizes foundational principles, and community and social change to address this issue, helping to create person-first language.

By referring to the competency of “Ethical, Reflective Practice,” community psychologists and “Spread the Word, to End the Word” organization strives for the continual ethical improvement for all. The effects of the r-word on people with disabilities is hurtful, and we want to show that everyone is capable of pursuing anything. People are coming together to improve the quality of life for people, utilizing the “Community Organizing and Community Advocacy” competency. The campaign focuses on spreading awareness on how language can affect someone’s overall wellbeing, in which as a community, we need to create more accepting attitudes (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p. 44).

Let’s think of it this way, if somebody told you that you’re so stupid because you got a bad grade on your math homework, how would it make you feel? It would probably make you inflict negative feelings towards math, and you degrade yourself for even trying. Now, think of how the r-word feels to someone with a disability? We all want to feel accepting, and it should be like that for everyone, regardless of ability. So, what can you do to help spread the word, to end the word? Go to ,pledge your support to eliminate the use of the word, and be part of the change that can affect the lives to those around us.

#commpsych #spreadthewordtoendtheword #equalityforall

Helena Whitlow is a graduate student in Autism Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Retarded. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2015, from http://www.merriam-

Scott, V., Wolfe,S. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for practice. California:         Sage Publications Inc.




Are Same-sex Classrooms Effective?

By Mariah Bourne

There has been an ongoing dispute over the benefits and drawbacks of having single-sex classrooms in public schools. Those in favor of this practice argue that same-sex classes get rid of inhibitions and stereotypes that girls and boys face in coed classes. Proponents also argue that kids should be separated by sex because boys and girls are motivated differently and they are allowed to reach their full potential in academics without distraction ( On the other hand, those who disapprove assert that single-sex classrooms do nothing but force students into stereotyped behavior while limiting interaction between males and females ( Although it has been proved that separating the sexes in education is ineffective (, same-sex classrooms could be very beneficial if used in a practical way.

Instead of having same-sex classrooms as the only option in schools, it would be more plausible to use single-sex classrooms to teach certain classes such as health, where sex actually makes a difference. Separating girls and boys for some classes but not others would reduce the lack of interaction between sexes that is argued by opponents as well as empower students. Community psychology competencies such as mentoring and empowerment should be used by teachers in order to assist boys and girls in finding their own voices and personal strengths without being discouraged by the presence of the other sex.

Although classes like these would be extremely beneficial to both sexes, I think they are a necessity for young women. Women are highly underrepresented in every aspect of the government and continue to be paid 79% of what men are paid ( This is a huge issue that has been overlooked for centuries and will continue to be ignored if women are not taught at a young age where they really stand in this country and steps that can be taken to change this lopsidedness. Same-sex classes could aid in increasing the amount of female leaders in the country by educating young women about topics that are important because of the sole fact that they are women living in a sexist society.

Some essential topics that could be covered are feminism, negotiating salaries, society and beauty (body image, self-esteem), and sexual education (teen pregnancy). These topics are for the most part female-centered so it makes sense that they would be taught in an all female class. Same-sex classes would be helpful for effectively teaching these topics and getting through to young women because there would be no distractions from young men who would most likely not be very interested in the topics listed. In addition, these classes would also promote strong ties among young females which is useful in the goal to have women join together and fight for, rather than against each other.

Same-sex classes would be equally as beneficial for young men. Having a class that focuses on topics centered toward each sex would allow for kids to express their true feelings and opinions on topics that directly effect them because of their sex.

#commpsych   #reformedu

Mariah Bourne is a graduate student in Community Social Psychology Deaprtment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Scott, V.C. & Wolfe, S.M. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


A Teacher for All

by Jackie Marcoux, University of Massachusetts Lowell

What comes to mind when you hear the word education?  It is likely that images of school buildings, classrooms, and teachers lecturing on a particular subject all come to mind.  While any image you conjured up is valid, did you come up with any images of education occurring outside of the traditional spaces associated? How about the school yard?  The grocery store?  Your neighborhood?

I have dedicated my life to education.  When I first began my journey towards educating others, I too thought the only way was through the traditional idea of a classroom.  As I progressed through my undergraduate career as an Elementary/Special Education major I began to realize that world was not where I fit in.  I didn’t want to be standing in front of elementary school kids teaching them spelling and math.

My experience as a Resident Assistant made me realize I wanted to work with college students but again not as a professor at the front of the room.  As an RA I encountered so many students who were uneducated on some of the most vital life skills and knowledge.  There were students who didn’t know where to get a condom or a dam (assuming they knew female condoms existed), didn’t know how to ask for help academically or personally, didn’t know how to interact with people different from themselves; the list could go on.  My job as an RA was to educate my residents as much as I could on the issues that were relevant to them.  I took this idea and ran with it.

I created a theater based peer education group at my alma mater that tries to address these issues.  The most important event that the group puts on to educate students is a performance at freshmen orientation.  In the first performance we covered issues of drinking, sexual violence, and partner violence.  This past year we addressed suicide, same sex sexual assault, verbal abuse, and anxiety.  After each performance there would be students who would approach us to ask further questions, thank us for performing, or ask how to get involved.  Everyone involved, be it participants in the show or audience members, where being educated and learning something new.

Outside of the explicit opportunities for education that I built or sought out, I am also an ambassador of education every day.  When I walk by with my service dog I am educating someone new.  Maybe they didn’t know a service dog could go everywhere with me.  Perhaps they didn’t know that a service dog for individuals with a hearing loss existed.  Maybe they want to know more about what a service dog does and how a dog becomes a service dog.  Every time I am stopped and a question is asked about my service dog is a moment when I am an educator.

All this adds up to a natural connection with Community Social Psychology.  To me, the core of CSP is providing people with education and the ability to learn and grow.  The education may come from a program explicitly created to address an issue.  It could also come from teaching people how build capacity and make change from and for themselves.  It comes from making connections with people and bridging the gaps in order to be successful as a community.  I may not be a teacher in the traditional form but with my CSP education I hope to be a teacher that everyone can access.


Jackie Marcoux is a graduate student in Community Social Psychology Department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Threat Assessment Prevention Program: A Temporary Hope?

by Annisha Susilo, University of Massachusetts Lowell

One of the common response I received from friends and family when I told them I’m going to study in America was “Be careful, you know the gun problem there”. I understand their concern and it does have a strong statistical basis. The statistics published by on mass shootings (four or more shooting victims in a single incident, not including the shooter) found thatthere have been at least 72 public mass shootings across 31 states in the past 33 years (Follman, Aronsen, & Pan, 2015). The number is currently believed to be on the rise, with mass shootings occur every 64 days on average since 2011 (Cohen, Azrael & Miller, 2014). Out of a total of 143 guns owned by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The gun types range from semi-automatic handguns to assault weapons. Approximately half of the cases of mass shootings occur in a school or workplace, and the rest of the cases took place in public spaces such as shopping malls, restaurants, religious and government building. The killers were mostly white males, with an average age of 35 years old. The majority of them were mentally troubled or displayed signs of mental health problems prior to committing the crime (Follman, Aronsen& Pan, 2015).

So what do we do to stop it?

Gun control is a debatable issue in US. Currently, there is a lack of political will (or ability) to tighten regulations on the sale and access to guns (Follman, 2015). This doesn’t mean that the government is not doing anything at all. Ever since the Columbine massacre in 1999, there is a shift of focus in the law enforcement from prosecution to prevention method. Threat assessment is one of the prevention program run locally across America in response to the mass shooting problems (Follman, 2015). Itconsists of a team of cops, psychologist, counselors and security expert, who work together to identify, evaluate and intervene people who has the potential to turn violent or become a mass shooter (Follman, 2015). The aim of this secondary method of prevention is simple, to stop someone from becoming a mass shooter.

How do they do it?

Threat assessment involves three stages; identifying, evaluating and intervening process. It starts when the team receivesa tip or report from people in the community about a potential high risk subject who has been behaving erratically or have communicated their intention to harm others. The team then works to identify if the subject is a real threat by looking at their social background and risk factors such as access to weapon, mental health status, and intention to kill. Information is then evaluated and used to create interventions such as counselling programs or if threat is imminent, involuntary hospitalization (Follman, 2015).

How will does it work?

“In December 2013, then-attorney General Eric Holder announced that Simons’ FBI unit (a threat assessment team) had helped prevent almost 150 attacks in one year” (Follman, 2015, para.17).  That is a lot of potential crime prevented, but why is the rate of mass shooting still increasing every year? The experts argue that it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of threat assessment because there is no real way of knowing “whether someone would have otherwise gone to attack” (Follman, 2015, para.18). Furthermore, like any other issue in the community, it requires multiple solutions that specifically target the risks. Threat assessment is one of them, but it can’t be the only one, especially when a significant risk factor such as access to guns has not been properly addressed.More work needs to be done incorporating Bronfenbrenner’s level of analysis and need assessment model in prevention programs if we want to win“the race to stop the next mass shooter” (Follman, 2015, title). (630 words)

#Commpsych #prevention #massshooting #threatassessment

Annisha Susilo is a graduate student in Community Social Psychology Department at University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Cohen, A. P., Azrael, D., & Miller, M. (2014).Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011, Harvard Research Shows. Retrieved


Follman, M., Aronsen, G., & Pan, D. (2015).A Guide to Mass Shootings in America. Retrieved from


Follman, M. (2015).Inside The Race to Stop The Next Mass Shooter. Retrieved form


Image source Stanford Mass Shootings in America, courtesy of the Stanford Geospatial Center and Stanford Libraries. (2015). Retrieved from

How to Improve Youth Civic Engagement Through Mini-Grant Programs

By Eric Johnson, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Youth may often be overlooked as important stakeholders in issues affecting their community, yet they can play a key role in addressing those negative issues and working towards a solution.  Through the establishment of mini-grant programs created to fund youth driven community action, young people can create change in their community, and see immediate results that also benefit their community in the long run.  Foster-Fishman et al. (2006) describe the use of a mini-grant program throughout several communities within the city of Battle Creek, Michigan that worked to encourage greater resident participation in community capacity building activities.  The goal of the program was to address racial gaps in level of education and socio-economic status present throughout the city by establishing mini-grant programs in communities found to be at the lower end of the cities average education and income.  The mini-grant programs allowed residents to apply for immediate funding of events that would enable them to take immediate action to address a specific and manageable community issue, in the hopes that this would lay the foundation for larger community efforts later on (Foster-Fishman et al., 2006).

After some changes in the initial strategies, the program described by Foster-Fishman et al. (2006) enabled positive changes in the community, and residents were improving in their capacity to achieve bigger goals.  However while the program attempted to encourage youth-driven community projects, participation from the young people within the community proved difficult, and stayed lower than program directors had expected.  Engaging youth in a mini-grant program may require different support and strategies than when involving adult community members, but could be just as effective when implemented successfully.

Accessible adult mentors or program directors to aid with the development of youth planned community service events or projectsare necessary to supportyouth in accessing funds and resources, and in executing plans.  This direct oversight and guidance enables teens to improve their own capacity to create change to address issues that affect them, and learn to take more active roles in promoting positive developmentin their community.Another strategy to encourage youth participation in community betterment projects is to identify potential youth leaders or youth recruiters who would be able to generate interest about the project amongst peers at school and elsewhere.  Potential youth leaders or recruiters could be teens already engaged in community development projects, or those knowledgeable about certain community issues.  These identified youth community members may then work closely with adult program directors, and receive training and support in organizing community projects, knowledge they can pass on to other youth through recruiting their participation.  This may work best when combined with an existing youth development organization in the community, as staff at these organizations may have established relationships with and knowledge about the youth in their community, and could help identify and recruit potential youth leaders for a community project.  In addition, staff at a local youth organization could serve as adult mentors or program supervisors and work directly with the youth to apply for funding and develop community projects.

One example of an existing youth program similar to the mini-grant programs described above is the Keystone program for teens at Boys & Girls Clubs across America.  This program works to improve youth leadership and character development through encouraging and supporting the development of youth-organized community service and civic engagement projects.  While the youth involved in this program do not directly apply for funding, the Keystone program itself is funded through grants that support the efforts of participating teen club members.  The Keystone program also has an adult program supervisor, who works to oversee and support the youth members in identifying addressing community issues, and taking a more active role in their community.  The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, for example, runs the Keystone program with their older teen club members, and encourages the development of character and crucial leadership skills to better equip them to achieve a successful future.  In the past year, Keystone members have tutored younger Boys & Girls Club members, and served as volunteers for large community building events including the Lowell Folk Festival and Winterfest.  Opening greater opportunities for teens to apply for mini-grants through programs like Keystone could equip and encourage the youth to take a more active role in addressing community issues affecting them.

Learn more about the Keystone program, and read more about the program aims and goals here:

Also, check out the website for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, to read about Boys & Girls Clubs programs like Keystone in action:


Eric Johnson is a graduate student in Community Social Psychology Department at the University of Georgia.



Foster-Fishman, P., Fitzgerald, K., Brandell, C., Nowell, B., Chavis, D., &Egeren, L. (2006).  Mobilizing Residents for Action: The Role of Small Wins and Strategic Supports. American Journal of Community Psychology, (38), 143-152.

“You have what now?!” How Much Do You Really Know About Chiari?

by Helen Whitlow, The University of Masschusetts Lowell


Image Credit:

Everyone remembers the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge right? That social media craze where millions of people spread awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) by uploading challenge videos, including nominations for others to take part. This promoted fundraising to find a cure for ALS, and influenced individuals to actually educate themselves. A lot of people didn’t know what ALS was, until the ice bucket challenge emerged. There are a lot of diseases, illnesses, epidemics, physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, where awareness has reached almost every part of the world. Sometimes I wonder if communities know of other illnesses, whether it’s from the news or social media. Have you ever heard of Chiari Malformation?

Chiari Malformation (CM) is a structural defect of the brain and spinal cord, where the cerebellum is in a downward placement at the back of the skull. Normally, the spinal cord should be the only thing passing through. This causes a lot of headaches, neck pains, dizziness, fatigue, and much more major symptoms. In 2009, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Chiari Malformation. For a few years, it was a slight secret, where only my immediate family knew. When I attempted to explain to others that I have CM, I was given the same puzzled response, “you have what now?!” I eventually gave up on informing people. As the reader, I don’t want you to pity, but I want you to understand how you can educate yourself and get involved in public awareness. Unfortunately, there are some fundraising and walks to find a cure for CM, but doesn’t produce the same effect as the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. By educating the reader about how community psychology provides resources on CM, encourages individuals like myself to shine a light on this invisible disease. Taking from the Competencies for Community Psychology Practice, I can address this issue, and hope that social change can arise from my need to advocate.

The eighteen competencies for community psychology help give individuals skills and knowledge on addressing social issues, and aid in the promotion of change. By focusing on the “Community and Social Change” category, the competencies within create more meaning in the education of CM. Collaborating and coalition development with individuals diagnosed with CM, can help educate those in surrounding communities. There are families who are heavily affected, and can use their life experiences to aid community psychologists, in the creation of educational resources. Community psychologists can work with others to improve awareness within the competency of information dissemination and public awareness building. Psychologists can establish more fundraisers and health clinics, providing accessible information to all individuals. They can utilize the ecological perspective competency, and use their work in context, and help individuals affected to increase social change (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p. 44). Even more so, hoping to reach higher levels of awareness through social media, similar to the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.

My goal of this blogpost is to shed some light on this invisible diagnosis, and encourage readers to research. Well if that did, then I utilized public awareness building! Community psychology can help with creating walks, foundations, and websites, while helping pediatricians and neurologists to become more aware of CM. Chiari Malformation may be invisible, but for individuals like myself, it will always be there. At least until further treatment is needed.

Now that you have learned a bit about Chiari Malformation, and want to learn even more, provided below is a link to the “Conquer Chiari” webpage. Create awareness, and be part of the change.

#commpsych #chiarimalformation  #chiarimalformationawareness  #arnoldchiari

Helena Whitlow is a graduate student in Autism Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Scott, V., Wolfe,S. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for practice. California:         Sage Publications Inc.


When You Say NO It Means NO

by Selin Tekin, University of Massachusetts Lowell

awarness.i help

Image Credit:

Sexual assault and rape are two of the vital issues on college campuses and many of them are unreported.It is reported that the annual rate of completed rapes is about 35 in every 1,000 female students. That means with 10,000 female students, as many as 350 rapes may occur during the academic year (Boche & Dincesen, 2014).There are many explanations to emphasize why those two issuesdestroy the sufferers’ dignity. However, telling what makes these problems is very hard, yet crucial. In essence, they are out of individuals’ control, undesired, and they result in the devastation of self-esteem (UK Center For Research On VAW, 2011).

To prevent the assault, the first step is to understand the issue.

 What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual violence takes many forms. Domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, even sexist jokes or harassment are all considered to be sexual violence.Sexual assault and rape are sometimes used as interchangeable terms for forced sex and they are also defined as sexual violence (Boche & Dincesen, 2014).

According to U.S. Justice department and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN):

Sexual Assault: “Unwelcome sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape.”

Rape:“Forced or nonconsensual sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.”

Ecological theories recognize that human behavior is shaped by factors at multiple levels, including peer and community environments. Sexual violence researchers and interventionists can capitalize on the successes in these fields by applying ecological prevention strategies to the existing multilevel concepts of sexual violence etiology (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).

Components of Ecological Prevention

There are six components of its application in the sexual violence field. The first component is comprehensiveness. This component can be conceptualized as implementing change strategies at two or more levels simultaneously such as, educational presentations, media campaigns, and small-group psycho-educational programming. For example, violence against women prevention is being delivered in many of these ways on college campuses (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).

The second component is community engagement. This component is centered on the participation of community members in the implementation of intervention strategies.It is defined as partnering with community members in the process of identifying targets for designing accompanying change strategies. In the state of Washington, for example, sexual assault programs that receive federal rape prevention and education funds are required to incorporate community engagement activities. Community engagement strategies included facility policy changes, staff education, and sexual violence educational programming for agency clients (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).

The third component is contextualized programming. This component is defined as designing intervention strategies that are consistent with the broader social, economic and political context of communities.Contextualized prevention cannot occur without engaging community members to identify their beliefs about the contributors to and likely solutions for sexual violence. The prevention efforts created for communities, such as colleges, would allow greater adaptation to the concerns,and will eventually facilitate the engagement of trusted, credible community members as deliverers of interventions (Casey & Lindhorst,2009).

The fourth component is theory based.This component is not limited to the ecological models. The program designed by Heppner and colleagues (1999) is a method of intervention that combines social-psychological theory and attitude formation with theElaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), which aims to concentrate attention to the core message of the intervention. The ELM suggests that attention is increased by several factors: personal linkages with the intervention content, opportunities to evaluate the content, and motivation to get involved. The evaluation results indicate that rape supportive attitudes targeted with the program decreased through a 5-month follow-up assessment of the participants. Heppner and colleagues linked the expected attitude change with a theory, which offers a mechanism for that change. In so doing, they provided a testable, replicable intervention, which will be duplicated and tailored for other groups (as is cited in Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).

The fifth component is health and strengths promotion. This component consists of simultaneous efforts to enhance community resources and strengths together with addressing risk factors. Banyard and colleagues (2007) developed a bystander approach for sexual violence prevention. This program trains college students to recognize potentially problematic situations and intervene in sexually coercive interactions. After two months, the trained students reported decreasing rape-supportive attitudes and beliefs, and significant increases in positive bystander behavior when compared with the students in the control group (Banyard et al., 2007).

The sixth component is toaddress structural factors. This component is described as targeting structural and underlying causes of social problems for change rather than individual behavior or symptoms of larger problems. Addressing structural contributors to rape may work best when done in partnership with community members who can identify the underlying factors that support aggressive behavior is their specific environment (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).


Selin Tekin is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Banyard, V.L. (2014). Improving College Campus-Based Prevention of Violence Against Woman a Strategic Plan For research Built On Multipronged Practices and Policies. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 15(4), 339-351

Banyard, V. L., Moynihan, M. M., & Plante, E. G. (2007). Sexual violence prevention through bystander education: An experimental evaluation. Journal of Community Psychology35(4), 463-481.

Boche, R. & Dincesen, A. (2014). Sexual Assault [Required Prevention Education]. Retrieved from:

Cambell, R. (2008). The Psychological Impact of Rape victims. Amrican Psychologist, 63(8),702.

Casey, E. A., & Lindhorst, T. P. (2009). Toward a multi-level, ecological approach to the primary prevention of sexual assault prevention in peer and community contexts. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse10(2), 91-114.

RAINN. (2009). Retrieved from:

UK Center For Research On Violence Against Women, (2011). Retrieved from:

Four Important Considerations in Conducting a Needs and Resource Assessment

By Aimee Coombs, University of Massachusetts Lowell


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An important competency, that is essential to supporting other competencies, is conducting community needs and resource assessments. A community needs and resources assessment is defined as, “a comprehensive analysis that examines the historical and existing context, conditions, assets, and capacity of the community to respond to a community issue (Scott & Wolfe,  2015)”.  This assessment helps to guide the actions, and decisions made on behalf of the community once the knowledge of the issues that need attention have been determined. Once the issues have been identified, all involved in determining resolutions that will benefit the community can come together and mobilize a plan that will benefit all in the community.

In regards to the community needs and resource assessment, I have listed four important considerations in conducting the assessment that I feel will help influence the manner in which assessments are done, and help to ensure positive outcomes.

  1. Participatory evaluationwhich is defined, “as a collaborative process of systematic inquiry, actively engages stakeholders in all phases of the assessment, and has with the shared goal of utilizing information to support action in addressing an issue (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. Considering this perspective in the assessment process allows for all of those involved and affected by the issues being addressed to have a say in defining the issues and solutions that will bring about changes wanted within the community.
  2. Prevention oriented approach looks at, “potential antecedents (i.e., precursors) that serve as risk or protective factors associated with behaviors of interest in the community are examined as part of the assessment (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. Utilizing this perspective helps to not only to consider the current state of issues but to also consider future probability of how the issues may stand in the future and what the needs and resources will be needed then.
  3. Ecological perspective,“recognizes the interaction between individuals and the multiple social systems in which they are embedded (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. This perspective allows for the needs across several socio-ecological areas to be considered. Having this perspective allows for a broader view of the needs within the community to be integrated as part of a whole.
  4. Action-focused assessment is the goal of the assessment to support a collaborative process that enables informed decision making for planning and taking action on issues that matter to the community (Scott & Wolfe, 2015). Taking this perspective encourages everyone that is involved utilizes the data gathered toward meaningful resolutions that will benefit all.


Using these skills and perspectives helps a community psychologist to ensure that when conducting the community needs and resource assessment that the best interest of the community is addressed and that all areas of the community are included as part of the whole. Community psychologists should strive to apply the ideas presented when doing the assessment to help guide the actions needed to be taken, and decisions needed to be made, for the communities they work with.



Aimee Coombs is a graduate student in Autism Studies program at University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Scott, V.  &  Wolfe, S.M.  (2015).  Community Psychology Foundations for Practice. United States of America: SAGE



Cross-Cultural Competence in Autism Studies

By Emily Sullivan, University of Massachusetts Lowell


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I believe the Cross-cultural competence in Community Psychology is among the most important. It emphasizes the ability to work effectively with different groups of people. With a nearly infinite number of cultures, groups and communities that exist today, community psychologists are unable to reach a level of mastery within this competency(Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.116). While this was a competency developed strictly for community psychology, I believe it would be beneficial to explore its application in different fields of psychology, such as Autism Studies. As a graduate student in the UMass Lowell Autism Studies program I can see real ties between this competence and the work I am doing as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) practitioner in the Autism Studies field as well as in my education pursuits. There are three key components of the Cross-cultural competence, culture, social identities and privilege and power, which relate directly to Autism Studies(Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.116).

Culture is made up of behaviors, beliefs and institutions (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.117). I believe that for this examination we can think of autism as a culture. It is a disorder characterized by a set of restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors or interests sometimes accompanied by maladaptive or challenging behaviors. There are also commonly held beliefs, whether positive or negative, about people with autism. These beliefs differ significantly between those with autism and their families and those who remain unaffiliated. Finally there are institutions set in place to either help or hinder individuals with autism. The cross-cultural competence emphasizes that it is extremely important to think of a culture as more than just a label, because labels highlight differences between groups and limit within group diversity(Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.117). I think this is an important idea to keep in mind in the field of Autism Studies. Labels are stigmatizing and create more distance between groups. I believe ABA practitioners and Autism Studies students alike should develop competence in this to bridge the gap between cultures (those individuals with autism and those without) and help create a more meaningful and lasting impact on individuals with autism.

The social identities component of the cross-cultural competence discusses self and social perceptions and how these are shaped by culture, history or context(Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.118). I believe an understanding of this component is important in Autism Studies as well as in Community Psychology. It is important when working with or studying individuals with autism to understand self and social perceptions and how they influence their social identities. Disabilities such as autism tend to carry around stigmatizing labels. It is important to understand these social perceptions while keeping in mind how the individual or close family views the individual. This understanding will help ABA practitioners change negative perceptions and hopefully make self perceptions individuals with autism have create a larger impression on their social identity. Perhaps in this realm Community Psychologists could be recruited to help change negative perceptions along with cultural ones that shape the social identities of individuals with autism. I believe a collaboration could create some lasting and meaningful change.

In terms of the privilege and power component of the cross-cultural competence, I think it is easy to relate it to autism. Our country’s history is one that has devalued individuals with disabilities. Therefore, privilege and power has historically and in many cases today is still kept with neurotypical individuals within a community.Understanding this disparity is extremely important within the field of Autism studies, as advocating for these individuals with autism is a large part of what is necessary to be an ABA practitioner. Often times a lack of privilege and power leaves individuals with autism vulnerable for predatory behavior and exploitation. Through understanding this competency practitioners and Autism Studies students could take the necessary steps to ensure that this does not happen.

The cross-cultural competency is important within the field of Community Psychology, but could also be useful in other fields such as Autism Studies. The key components of this competency culture, social identity and privilege and power can clearly tie into Autism Studies and could help practitioners be more effective. Through examination of the cross-cultural competence in Autism Studies, I believe that it would be extremely useful to be used within this field. Based on many similarities between Autism Studies and Community Psychology, collaboration between the fields could have important positive effects on individuals with autism and some of the adversity they face.


Emily Sullivan is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Scott, C. V, & Wolfe, M. S. (2015) Community Psychology Foundations For Practice. Thousand Oaks,

California: SAGE Publications, Inc.