Newsletter Article

Alumni Profile: Adair Cardon's ABA program in Senegal

"My advice to future Psychology majors... No need to do what everyone else is doing! You can create your own unique role if you plan your education well. I merged a cross-cultural degree with a therapist certification, which put me in a nice little niche. The world is wide open, and you have an amazing amount of resources at your fingertips, though it will take work, planning, and time to bring them all together."

     - Adair Cardon, Psychology BS 2014

Adair Cardon
Adair Cardon

Psychology alumna Adair (Addie) Cardon characterizes Psychology as a "dauntingly massive field". And, it turns out, that's a good thing. Addie found that the flexibility of her degree, coupled with the outstanding education and training that she received as a UW Psychology major, allowed her to imagine and then create her dream job. While pursuing a Master's degree in Cross-Cultural Psychology in London, Addie was invited by a friend to travel to Senegal, in West Africa. Once there, the experiences that she had gained as an undergraduate working with the UW Autism Center came into play.

Addie began meeting with parents of children with autism who described their desperate situations and expressed their hope that therapies for their children would one day be available in Senegal. "It's easy to see while standing in that environment that the US is so full of resources such as educational opportunities, funding, and materials," Addie explains, "that I decided to figure out how to bring some of those resources to Senegal, as well as to pursue the rest of my practical education in the country, on the ground, to begin the process of forming (and informing!), a permanent practice."

Addie with colleagues
Quesia Raquib, Addie, and Oumou Kalsoum Sall

While the path to achieving that goal of a permanent practice may be long, Addie is determined to embark on the journey. She explains that therapies that use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques are very effective at teaching language and social skills to children with autism, but that there are currently no credentialed therapists that can serve the people of Senegal. Currently based in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, Addie is working with colleagues who are part of the Senegal Autism Network, which is currently mobilizing to bring awareness, professional trainings, and family services to the country from the ground up. "Our team's ultimate goal," says Addie, "is to disperse our own education as far and wide as possible so that the future of ABA practice for autism in Senegal would be entirely self-sustainable and capable of growing beyond our own walls."

Dakar School
Dakar School

Addie was first exposed to the field of autism research while an honors student with Raphael Bernier in the UW Autism Center. There, she learned what autism looks like, how it's diagnosed, and what causal factors might be behind its development and presentation. Circumstances let her to marry that training and experience with her love of traveling and desire to live abroad. Her personal wanderlust satisfied, and with lots of work ahead of her, Addie has no plans of leaving Senegal any time soon.