By Devon Troy, a member of the SkillCorps Dominican Republic Feb. 2017 team
My week and half at the Aprendo Center in the Dominican Republic has been incredibly inspiring. My first week was spent collaborating with two of my fellow SkillCorp members working on a Functional Analysis or FA for a particularly challenging student here. The purpose of an FA is to determine the factors that cause or maintain problem behavior. In this particular case, aggression and self-injurious behavior were the behaviors of concern for obvious reasons. While I won’t bore you with all of the ins and outs of an FA, I will tell you that they are typically quite complex, involve multiple rooms, two-way mirrors, multiple therapists, multiple observers, and devices for quick and accurate data collection. While Aprendo has many fantastic resources, they do not have spare rooms, extra therapists, or two-way mirrors. Everyone was so positive and used the resources available. We found ourselves standing outside in the back of the building in 90-degree weather looking through the window to collect data, flipping rooms in under a minute for each new condition, running from outside to inside and outside again. I never heard one complaint from anyone. It is amazing the lengths that these therapists will go to, to help their students.
Another thing you should know about FA’s is that the purpose is to evoke the problem behavior. This can be quite scary for someone new to the field or even seasoned veterans. I don’t think anyone ever gets used to getting bitten or watching a child hit themselves repeatedly because they don’t have the language to communicate their wants or needs. One therapist in particular expressed her concerns openly. I tried to console her as best I could but of course that doesn’t do much good. Although she was nervous, as soon as she stepped in that room, she put her game face on and did amazing. She didn’t show her nerves to the student at all and I was just so, so proud of her. In the end, I think the FA was an overall success. Some of the staff at Aprendo completed their first FA and are more knowledgeable of the process. We were able to determine the function of the students’ problem behavior, which will help the staff write an effective behavior plan, which will reduce problem behavior long term. This will help to give him a better quality of life, make him more accessible to learning, and hopefully he will be able to go back to school. Lastly, the collaboration and relationships that were built between myself, other SkillCorp team members, and the team at Aprendo is something I will hold onto and an experience I will never forget.