By Taylor Genseal, a member of the SkillCorps Dominican Republic July 2017 team
One of the most important things I have learned on this trip is that autism is something that transcends cultures. We know that autism is all over the world, (that is why we’re all here), but it is so much more than that. Autism doesn’t care where you are from, what you look like, how much money you have, what God you pray to, who you love, or what your social status is. This is something I have always been aware of, but not truly reflected on until this trip. It has made the world seem so much smaller. What does a mother of a child with autism in the suburbs of Chicago and a father of a child with autism from the outskirts of Santo Domingo have in common? Their undying desire for their child to have as independent and fulfilling life as possible.
The fact that autism transcends cultures can create unique challenges and advantages to those with a diagnosis, their loved ones, and their therapy team. For example, the Dominican Culture is very expressive. When our plane landed everyone clapped and cheered! You don’t find that in the U.S. Some children with autism can be sensitive to loud noises, therefore this sensitivity can make it difficult for them to be a part of an expressive and sometimes loud culture. In cases like this the therapy team must decide an appropriate approach to help make the child feel comfortable and accepted, without altering the entire culture around them.
Autism transcends cultures, but fortunately so does science. If 2 + 2 = 4 in a general education classroom in the United States, it still equals 4 in the Dominican Republic. I believe the same goes for the science of Applied Behavior Analysis. If we can decrease problem behaviors in the U.S. by manipulating the environment, we can do the same here at Aprendo. The approach and language might be different, but the intervention is based on the principles of our science.
In a world that can appear so divided, our work at Aprendo has helped bring us closer together.