By Mascherelle, a member of the SkillCorps Dominican Republic February 2017 team
I recently shared my initial experience of becoming a Skillcorps member and how my understanding of what it means to give back has grown immensely. This time I wanted to share with you the experience of the partners of the Global Autism Project in hope to demonstrate the impact of a sustainability approach to supporting services for children with autism no matter where they live. With that in mind, I was honored to interview an amazing ABA therapist from Centro Aprendo with whom I’ve worked these past two weeks. I’ve learned so much from her while also being able to share my own expertise in the field. I know without a doubt that I want to continue to support the Global Autism Project (GAP) movement , but it is more important for others to join this movement so that the project may continue to expand and provide services to those in need. Please read the following interview to learn about the perspective of those who partner with GAP.
Name: Raquel C. Henriquez-Feliz
Education: B.A. Psychology
Country of birth: Santo Domingo, DR
Interests/Hobbies: watching movies, reading books, doing life with people that I can learn from and who can learn from me
Me (M): What is your role at Aprendo?
Raquel (R): I’m a therapist.
M: How do you feel about working with children with autism?
R: I enjoy it very much! I love growing with them, teaching them, and learning from them. How funny they are!
M: Do you think your community is highly aware of children with autism?
R: Developmental disabilities, perhaps. My community looks for genetic evidence in facial features, in speech delays and in challenges at school. An increasing number of families are learning about the Autism Spectrum Disorder mainly because the children in their families are affected by it. As of 2010, before I left the country to pursue my bachelors degree, I can guarantee you that I had never heard of the diagnosis of Autism.
M: Are children with autism accepted within your community?
R: Widely, surprisingly enough. As awareness grows people begin to see children with Autism as just that, children who have more challenges in academic settings, social settings and with management of emotions. But in school settings, they are beginning to receive more support via shadows. And more certificates are available for shadows to be better prepared. It is very impressive how much has been accomplished with awareness, disposition to help, a general knowledge in psychology or special education, and effective team-work.
M: You obtained your degree in Miami, what made you come back to the DR to work rather than remain in the states?
R: Simple! My student visa ended. My BCBA supervisor at the time, Dr. Pedraza-Rodriguez told me about Centro Aprendo and encouraged me to continue pursuing my professional development along with them. I was so excited! The opportunity to work with them was so timely.
M: Are there any significant differences you’ve experienced working with children with autism in the states and children in the DR?
R: Oh yeah! The basic understanding of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and its foundations are the same but every business has to accommodate to serve its community effectively. Working in the United States exposed me to a systematic, structured, ethical way to go about implementing behavior-analytic intervention
M: What vision do you have for your country?
R: With increased awareness and value bestowed upon behavior analytic research and its applications locally, Dominica
M: How has working at Aprendo helped you towards your vision?
R: Aprendo is building a system to prepare its therapists with regular trainings and constant support from its leaders over the course of two years. Aprendo will be a suitable environment for Bachelor and Master level students from local universities to conduct observations and practice the knowledge from school.
M: What role has GAP played in contributing towards your vision?
R: GAP regularly assesses the sustainability of Centro Aprendo’s interventions to its patients. Additionally, GAP is not only impacting Dominican Republic through partnering with Centro Aprendo, it is building an educational curriculum to bring up home grown Masters in A.B.A. Board Certified Behavior Analysts at the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) in Santo Domingo. Exciting events are occurring this season in Dominican Republic!
M: Would you recommend GAP partnerships to others within your community or other countries?
R: Absolutely! It only takes a small business attempting to deliver sound ABA interventions in a community that otherwise has little to no access to the newest research findings better allowing said businesses to serve its community to qualify. Asking for help is a concept we instill on our own kiddos. And GAP is ready to provide assistance.
M: What do you think could motivate more people to support GAP so that GAP may support others like yourself to achieve their vision for children with autism within their community?
R: Our continued success stories! In Dominican Republic it doesn’t matter how grand a company is if customers don’t recommend it. The integrity of a company is the only guarantee that more customers will do business with them.
The Global Autism Project envisions a world where children with autism receive quality service and best practices no matter where they live! I hope my viewers will continue to support this vision well after I leave the Dominican Republic. Thank you for your support!
Photo Credit: Instagram@erin.leong Facebook #erinleongphotography