Danie Canales, VHS Class of 2008, attended the University of California, Davis as a transfer student majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Education and Human Development. She was employed at McGree Behavior Intervention Services as an Associate Behavior Specialist and was also a Social Work intern for the Vacaville Police Department. In 2012, Danie graduated from UC Davis and attended a Psychology graduate program at California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock, CA, working towards a dual Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy as well as Applied Behavior Analysis. She is currently working on her Master’s thesis and is interested in working with the Vacaville Police Department in creating behavior plans for juvenile delinquents and their families.
Tell us about some activities you were involved in while in high school, whether it was through the school or outside of school.
In high school, I was actively involved in my church through teaching vacation bible school, lectoring, singing, altar serving, and being a CORE Leader for the youth group. I was a referee for our local soccer union and worked as a lifeguard at the Walter V. Graham Aquatic Center. I was on the swim team for all four years and became captain of the Varsity Girls team my senior year of high school. Also, I was involved in Student Council and became Senior Section Editor of the yearbook.
When and why did you decide that you wanted to work with special needs children, providing diagnosis and behavior interventions as well as therapeutic services to their families?
I’ve always expressed an interest in working with children but my interest expanded to children with special needs when I taught swim lessons to a little girl with Autism. I began to look for jobs that allowed me to work with more children with Autism and secured one when I was a senior at UC Davis. The case I worked with proved that the family dynamic was even more imperative to the overall wellbeing of the child with special needs than I had ever imagined. The experience and literature I’d been exposed to during my undergrad
led me to believe that the parent-child dyad was all there was to the family unit. With my case, however, I learned that siblings and the relationship he or she has with the sibling with special needs
could also affect the wellbeing of the unit and each child. To be frank, this is the hypothesis I want to prove with my master’s thesis; that the old-school dyad should be rearranged to include the other siblings (either typically developing or not) as failure to do so could put each family member at risk for psychological stress and related mental health issues. Services should be provided not only to the child with special needs but to their caretakers and siblings as well.
How did you like UC Davis? Did it give you the tools necessary to pursue your career goals?
UC Davis is a very challenging school. It provided me with opportunities to tap into my inner strengths
and resources to prove that I could live up to such high expectations that I would undoubtedly encounter later on in life in perhaps not so different a setting.
For me, college allowed me to become a competitive student in terms of what I wanted to get out of my education that would further my advance in the field of psychology. I made Davis mold to my interests, my strengths, and my life because I didn’t see the need to compare myself to other students and their academic or personal accomplishments; there’s always going to be somebody better than me no matter where I go. For my field, I feel I only need to be as good as being able to successfully help my clients, not engage in prideful competition with my colleagues. Davis provided me with the foundation of such a philosophy.
Tell us about your employment at McGrew Behavior Intervention Services as an Associate Behavior Specialist as well as your internship in Social Work at the Vacaville Police Department.
My internship at the police department opened the doors to the professional psychology world. I needed the kind of hard learning I experienced working with knowledgeable adults, as at my job working for the Aquatics Department for the City of Vacaville I had only worked with kids my age or younger. I was more of a clerical intern than anything but I knew that I had to pay my dues and simply wanted to get my foot in the door. I was an observer and I’m proud of my time there.
McGrew Behavior Intervention Services allowed me to work more deeply in the field of applied behavior analysis, a relatively new branch of psychology that I had just discovered during my time at Davis. I got to work with licensed psychologists and licensed analysts, something I had never done. Not only did I get to apply my education and test out the theories I’d learned about in class but I also got to examine my interpersonal skills working closely with professionals.
Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years?
In five years, I hope to be working in the Vacaville school district as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. I didn’t move 100 miles away to the middle of nowhere for grad school for nothing. I would like
to be working in my hometown because I adore Vacaville and I’m proud to be among the first of my alumni to admit it. In the coming five years, I can see myself positively loving my job and enjoying both the ups and the downs. I don’t like to think of myself in ten years because then I think of how old I’ll be and I refuse to subject myself to such mental torture.