7. Parent Engagement in Ecuador, with Mafer Chang

Discover what’s possible when parents mobilize to build a community of ambassadors. 

Mafer Chang is the founder of Centro Enigma, an autism center in Ecuador. 

The Global Autism Project has been partnered with Centro Enigma since 2018. We have sent 4 SkillCorps® teams to collaborate with their teachers and provide training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). You can hear more about our SkillCorps program in Episode 4. 

Since opening her first center in Guayaquil in 2015, Mafer has expanded her reach to two other cities, Samborondon and Manta. She had plans to open a fourth center in Portoviejo this April, however, that has been put on hold as a result of limitations to the coronavirus pandemic. 

When this episode was recorded on March 20th, Ecuador was on their 5th day of mandated lockdown. Mafer had just closed Centro Enigma a few days before and was transitioning to offer online services for families. 

Now, 7 weeks later, Guayaquil is known as the “Little Wuhan” of Latin America, with over 20,000 cases of COVD-19. Like many other places in the world without an economic safety net, Mafer's community has been hit hard financially. The staff at Centro Enigma are currently volunteering their time to make sure families continue to have access to support. 

In this episode, Mafer explains what services are available for children with autism in Ecuador from the step of diagnosis. It is difficult for parents to differentiate between services that are evidence based and those that are not. Mafer also talks about some of the myths surrounding ABA in her community. 

We discuss how her journey to become a certified Behavior Analyst has been affected by the international process changes made by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). 

Mafer describes some of the breakthroughs she had during the early years of developing Centro Enigma, including learning how to motivate and retain therapists. 

Each year on World Autism Awareness Day, the staff at Centro Enigma holds big events in different cities across Ecuador. Mafer recounts how their efforts to spread awareness have grown over the years, starting with a small group of 5 students and later expanding to a long list of families who want to participate. 

Mafer empowers parents to be involved in their children’s therapy from day one. This has prepared families to jump in and work with their kids at home now that their centers are closed during quarantine. She expresses the heartfelt joy she has experienced from hearing parents speak differently about their children’s autism. 

Despite the challenges she is facing, Mafer is determined to provide quality services to the families of Centro Enigma and continue to engage the community of parents she has already built.

You can learn more about Mafer and her work here: Centro Enigma.

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