By: Taylor Miceli

Look to your left, what do you see? An empty bag of gummy bears or a way to begin independence? What many may see as a bag of trash, Kaki, ACAP director for GAP’s new center in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic sees as an individualized opportunity for a child to learn. While touring us the new center, Kaki explained that she plans to turn this in-progress room into a pseudo supermarcato for her students who display several difficulties with entering, leaving, and all of the in-betweens that can occur in a supermarket.

For one specific client, Kaki explained, the most difficult process for both her student and family is the battle between entering the store, and not reaching for, grabbing, or opening his most favorite item: gummy bears. Kaki saw this as an opportunity to teach, and an opportunity for a child to gain independence.

With trips to the supermercato being a centralized part of living here in the DR, but the pseudo supermercato not put together yet, Kaki and her team wasted no time putting in place an individualized program to work with her client with what they had. The therapist began placing an empty gummy bag on the shelf and periodically throughout the session, the client and therapist practice several instances of walking past the gummy bear bag without grabbing. Once the empty bag is successfully mastered, Kaki and her therapist plan to move onto the grand finale- an unopened bag of delicious, tempting gummy bears. For many this may not seem like a large feat but for Kaki, her staff, her student, their parents, and all of us in the field or surrounding the field, we know the small successes just like this, build onto larger successes. 

Going into this trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure what I would come across, the people I would meet, the culture I would encounter. But what I discovered, was an enthusiastic team, led by a director with a heart even larger than her center, and aspirations to match. What I found was that ABA, no matter the culture, or the location, is a universal language. It is comprised of large-hearted individuals with one shared purpose: the growth, betterment, and success of their clients. And reminders like that, is why I continue to fall in love with this field.