Applying Behavior Analysis in Africa

July 29, 2019 - Morgan McClellan

Applying Behavior Analysis in Africa

By Morgan McClellan, Marketing Coordinator

This year, Clinical Director and BCBA Holly Barszcz went to Africa for 11 days. While she was there, she studied how behavior science and related fields develop solutions to meaningful social problems within the socio-cultural context of South Africa and our own communities.

“I decided to go because I love travel and the field of behavior analysis. This was a way to effectively combine the both of those loves into one experience,” said Barszcz.

Barszcz is pursuing a Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Studying abroad was an elective course towards her degree, but it was also an experience of a lifetime for her. One of her Dream Managergoals is to travel, so she was able to achieve one of her dreams by going to South Africa for the first time. The two main parts of South Africa they visited were Cape Town and Johannesburg, which was a 14-hour flight from Indianapolis.

The two main objectives she had during this course were:

  • To be enlightened on various clinical practices within a different culture, particularly those in their educational system
  • To learn more on how the South African culture addresses the support and interventions needed for children with autism spectrum disorder diagnoses

While she was there, Barszcz was able to visit an ABA clinic and see the differences between service delivery models in South Africa and The United States.

Another academic site visit allowed Barszcz and her group to participate in a panel discussion with prominent members of the South African community. They discussed interventions and supports that are found within the United States. Members of the South African community would bring forth a clinical problem that they had encountered and asked their group for guidance on how to proceed. Barszcz explained how one individual discussed his own mother’s case, and he talked of her demonstrating symptoms that would possibly mirror a schizophrenia diagnosis. However, in the South African culture they were experiencing, a diagnosis may produce a social stigma that is more damaging to the individual than the possible help they can receive.  When presenting his mother’s case, the man then asked the panel if he should seek psychiatric services for his mother or if they believed her symptoms were a result of witchcraft.

The group had many memorable adventures during the trip as well, which included:

  • Taking a tour of Johannesburg that included visiting the Constitutional court, a tour of Nelson Mandela’s home and a visit to Hector Pieterson Square
  • Participating in a drum circle drumming session
  • Visiting the C.A.R.E Centre (Centre for Autism Research and Education)
  • Traveling to Epworth Village to discuss services and challenges encountered with children lived in the village requiring basic care and school services that did not have parental involvement
  • Exploring Hotel Hope Ministries to discuss the societal challenges and issues in the Alexandra township
  • Visiting Rays of Hope to be members of a panel with prominent members of the community to discuss cases related to behavioral challenges and provide guidance for solutions
  • Touring the Apartheid Museum and the Lion Park — where they got to pet the lion cubs and go on a game drive in a Safari vehicle — and visiting the Lesedi Cultural Village to see a traditional dance show and have an African dinner
  • Traveling to Table Mountain to go on top of the mountain by means of a cable car
  • Visiting Akeso Montrose Manor to discuss trends in treatment, therapies and services for those diagnosed with an eating disorder.
  • Going to Cornerstone Institute to talk with psychology students and faculty about the politics of change as their election was one week away
  • Walking next to the African penguins on Boulder Beach
  • Experiencing World of Birds and Monkey Jungle, where Barszcz held monkeys and watched them try to take things from people’s pockets

Overall, Barszcz was grateful to have this opportunity to travel, immerse herself in a new culture and share her experiences with others seeking education in ABA.

“I believe we were able to give people a different viewpoint when faced with various situations, especially through some of the interactions we were able to have,” said Barszcz. ” I also was able to make contact with some students in school pursuing BCBA certification that would require supervision hours. Since there are only two BCBA’s in South Africa currently, it is difficult [for students studying ABA] to obtain supervision hours. Hopefully, I will be able to provide supervision remotely and further expand the field of behavior analysis.”


Last updated by at .

July 29, 2019, Morgan McClellan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *