By Sarah Glass, a member of the SkillCorps Dominican Republic Feb. 2017 team
When one speaks of inspiring women that are creating social change in the world they should include Patricia Chong. Patricia is like many other ABA therapists that are working in the field while pursuing BCaBA certification. She is passionate, brilliant, driven, caring, and like many other candidates, would likely benefit from an extended vacation. But Patricia is different from most students~ she is a trailblazer in the Dominican Republic. She is on track to become one of the first BCaBAs in her entire country.
It is easy to allow Patricia Chong’s quiet demeanor to hide the passion and drive she possesses to make huge changes in her community. By the age of 29, Patricia has already risen to clinical operations supervisor at the Aprendo Center. Patricia’s first experience in the field was as a paraprofessional working in a preschool. In this experience, she saw the challenges families and children face in education.
Patricia studied pre-med at Intec University. Patricia began to worry a career in medicine would not be as satisfying as once perceived. “Doctors solve organic problems. I wanted to heal the whole person and family.” She switched majors and graduated with a degree in Psychology in 2013. She began working for the Aprendo Center for Autism in 2015 as an aba therapist. Patricia’s dream is to become a BCBA.
Can you imagine becoming the one of the first BCaBAs your in your country? Mind you, the Dominican Republic is a country of almost 9 million yet they have only one BCBAs in the entire country. Imagine the struggles you would have to overcome to obtain training, supervision, and clinical experience. Meeting Patricia really got me thinking about the BCAB certification process, the importance of our work, and what the universal goals and values that as a organization should share.
While our profession is rapidly growing in the States, in many other parts of the world ABA services are simply unavailable. If you placed all the current BCBA and BCaBA practitioners on a map, you would notice that the vast majority live in the USA. I could only find three universities that offered the pre-approved BCBA coursework in a Spanish speaking country. She faces so many barriers that Americans would never consider in pursuit of this dream. She is currently taking classes at ABA Espana to qualify for BCaBA classes. These classes are not available in the Dominican Republic. On top of that the BACB does not accept many university degrees in mastery programs in the Dominican Republic. Although the classes are in Spanish, it is very different from the Spanish spoken in North and South America. BCBA coursework is not offered in any local university in the Dominican Republic. This makes accessing materials, in vivo models, asking course related questions in the moment and finding mentoring a challenge. While Patricia has overcome this hurdle by making significant personal sacrifices, she is paving the way for young women in the Dominican Republic.