B.E.L.I.E.F. Eclectic Learning provides culturally relevant care for children with autismQ&A with Mya Ndiaye: Nonprofit Journal Project

Open Door Living Association is a nonprofit organization that provides mental health resources for families and treatment for children with autism in metro Detroit. The agency’s primary program is B.E.L.I.E.F Eclectic Learning. Mya Ndiaye is the founder and CEO.

What are the main services provided through B.E.L.I.E.F. Eclectic Learning and what communities does the program serve?

We serve the tri-county area, and B.E.L.I.E.F. Eclectic Learning is our ABA program, where we provide Applied Behavior Analysis to diverse and underserved communities. [ABA is a type of therapy often used for people with autism that focuses on identifying challenges with an individual’s behaviors and/or learning skills and correcting or addressing any detected issues.]

Why is this program so important to the metro Detroit community?

The Metro Detroit communities and certain parts of Macomb County particularly have very diverse groups, and whether that is based upon social economics, or just nationality, race, community, language barriers, and so forth, there are different facets of education to address that diversity. All of these things impact whether somebody is able to receive mental health services, particularly individuals that don't necessarily have mental illness but have developmental disabilities, like autism. Understanding how to get services, how to maintain services, and how to actually align with the treatment plan, becomes difficult if you have any barrier or limitation to those services.

Why is it important that you are providing services for children with autism that are a part of underserved populations?

Our organization takes a well-rounded approach where we consider all of the barriers that impact the families we serve.

Many factors impact what is available for families with individuals impacted by autism.
The many factors that we have found that influence the families we serve are language barriers, limited transportation, limited funding, limited understanding of what a diagnosis entails and education level. So, we make sure that we are considerate of the fact that these barriers can prevent families from actually engaging in services.

One way we aid in this is by providing transportation to our center for some of our families.

How do you gain trust in those communities that may otherwise be distrustful of social service programs?

I think education is powerful. When we can speak to our families in a language that they can understand, when we understand and have a robust cultural intelligence to actually interact with families in a culturally inclusive way, understanding what different populations prioritize versus others, we begin to establish that level of trust. We understand whether something like autism is stigmatized in that community or not and collaborate with the families.

What else is important for people to know about the B.E.L.I.E.F. program?

That it is a mission and it's a twofold mission, not only to help the families that we serve, but also to give opportunities to individuals that possibly would be looked over for particular careers or jobs. We provide on-the-ground job training, and we do really try to give a pathway to a rewarding career that's a sustainable career.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Open Door Living Association is our parent company, which is a full-service mental health agency, so counseling, diagnostic, expansion for special needs daycare, and also providing respite care. While we mainly service youth, there are individuals that are over 18 who are out of eligibility for direct services who still need assistance, and we continue to provide care in that regard.

This entry is part of our Nonprofit Journal Project, an initiative inviting nonprofit leaders across Metro Detroit to contribute their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19, a heightened awareness of racial injustice and inequality, issues of climate change, and more are affecting their work and how they are responding. This series is made possible with the generous support of our partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.act Detroit.
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