Help for Autism in Spanish-Speaking Countries.
“Acceptance Through Education”
You have been passionate about autism since you were 12 years old. How has that passion played out in your professional life?
“When my parents relocated to the United States from Peru, we were in one of the few cities in the U.S. where, at that time, the public university had a program that allowed teachers to specialize in autism. I became a teacher, got my master’s degree and then moved to New York City where I obtained my Ph.D. at Columbia University. In 2014, I founded Alcanzando to help children with autism, and their families, in Spanish-speaking countries.”
What has been your biggest inspiration along the way?
“The families I work with who don’t give up and continue to fight to improve the life of their children. I have great admiration for them.”
You’ve had to face many obstacles in your mission to address autism in Spanish-speaking countries. How have you overcome them?
“Through education – promoting awareness and understanding of autism amongst the community at large. When we started working in Latin America, as our young children gained the necessary skills, we approached preschools about letting kids with autism come into their classrooms and be educated amongst their peers. At first the teachers at the schools said, ‘No way.’ By the end of the year, they were welcoming our students with great enthusiasm. We must educate not just the people who are touched by autism, but also the ones who are not.”
What advice would you give to other women who are looking to follow their dreams?
“Don’t give up on something just because someone tells you your chosen path is too difficult. Trust yourself. You know what will make your life full.”
If you had a single life lesson to share, what would it be?
“Be ready to evolve. Just because something doesn’t happen the way you originally had planned, don’t let it derail your whole dream.”
Pictured: Dr. Mapy Chavez Askins with Candy, Alcanzando’s service dog
Alcanzando Inc. 501 (c)(3)
4324 Butterfly Orchid Lane, Naples, FL 34119
Photographer: Anna Nguyen
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