The End of a Great Summer at The Walker School

I just completed my summer internship at The Walker School, and it could not have been a more fulfilling and rewarding experience. At the beginning of the summer, I outlined three different internship goals that I hoped to work on, and I feel as if I have made significant progress on all of them. My first internship goal was to have Walker help me succeed in school. During my summer at Walker, I have worked with children who have a variety of emotional, behavioral, and learning disorders, and as such, I have begun to learn and understand the difficulties and struggles associated with them. Although I still have a lot more learning to do, I can utilize my basic knowledge of these disorders to help me do well in school when I take related classes, such as “Disorders of Childhood.”

My second goal was to have Walker assist me in the progress of becoming a social worker for children or adolescents. I feel as if I have made serious progress in the completion of this goal; at the end of my internship, Walker offered me the position of Child Care Worker in their Intensive Residential Treatment Program. This job brings me that much closer to becoming a social worker for children or adolescents, as I will continue to receive valuable experience in this field.

Finally, my third summer goal was to become more comfortable in unpredictable situations. I have also made serious strides in the completion of this goal. Every day at Walker, I was required to adapt to the ever-changing environment and reactions of each individual child. Even the the same child can have drastically different actions depending on the day. As a result, I became much more comfortable in an unpredictable environment, as I needed to respond to the changes in children’s behavior and needs.

I will undoubtedly be able to build off my experience at Walker during the rest of my time at Brandeis and even once I graduate. The Walker School provided me with the knowledge that will help me to do well in my classes at Brandeis. Furthermore, Walker also provided me with the skills necessary to work in the demanding mental health field. My time at Walker has begun to prepare me to become a social worker because it has given me the tools required to work toward that goal.

Even though I have completed my internship, there is still so much more I need to learn. I believe that I will never truly be done learning — every child I will ever work with will always respond differently to certain situations and I can always learn new ways to help that child to the best of my ability. Additionally, although my internship at Walker has ended, there are still many more experiences I want to take on. I can’t wait to begin working at Walker as a Child Care Worker, as my extended time there can only help me grow and assist other children as much as I can.

If people are interested in an internship at either The Walker School or in the mental health field, I would strongly suggest having a serious passion for that field. Working at Walker or in the mental health field can be very difficult as well as emotionally and physically demanding. However, if it is possible to push through the difficult times, the reward you get when you help a child who is struggling outweighs everything else.

If you would like to learn more about The Walker School, please visit this link to watch a short video describing the organization. You can also click here to read about the different programs and services offered through Walker. It’s a tremendous place and I strongly encourage you to read about it.

-Avi Cohen ’15

Halfway Through My Time at Walker

Before I began my internship at Walker, I outlined several learning goals I hoped to accomplish by the end of the summer.  One of my learning goals is to integrate the Walker experience into my school work once I return to Brandeis.  During the fall semester, I will be enrolled in courses called “Disorders of Childhood” and “Education and Social Policy.”  During my time at Walker thus far, I have implemented developmentally appropriate social and recreational activities for children that have encouraged creativity and teamwork (if you’re interested, visit this link to participate in a training on how to therapeutically play with children).  By implementing different types of activities, I have begun learning various techniques that can be applied in a school setting to encourage student learning and growth.

New School Building
The New School — One of the buildings that contains classrooms

A second learning goal is for the Walker experience to help me develop some of the attributes of an excellent social worker – a position I aspire to.  A very important part about being a social worker is maintaining the trust of those you work with and are trying to help.  The children in my program typically do not live with their parents and thus do not get to experience many things that people take for granted, such as having someone read a bedtime story.  There have been nights where I was the person who put a child to bed, and through interactions like these, the children have begun to trust me and open up to me, thus allowing me to truly begin to help them.

My third goal for this summer is to become more comfortable adapting to an unpredictable environment.  Throughout my internship, I have worked with children toward the improvement of life-skills, ranging from how to wash their hands to how to make a grilled cheese.  By working one-on-one with children who have different strengths and weaknesses, I have  continuously altered my approach to properly teach these children various skills.  This constant need to adjust to the varying circumstances has allowed me to begin to be more flexible with the changes in my own life.

Barn Building
The Barn – the administrative building that is next to one of the playgrounds

Even though I have achieved a lot during my time at Walker, I am most proud of the fact that I have begun to develop relationships with the children in my program.  It has taken a lot of time and hard work, especially because of the trauma many of these children have experienced, but they have finally begun to trust me, talk to me, and allow me to help them.  I started working at Walker because I wanted to help children who had gone through extremely difficult times, and now that I have formed relationships with them, I can now begin to teach and help them to the best of my ability.

The skills I am developing at Walker will also help me in other aspects of my life, especially in a career setting.  By going to work every week and interacting with the staff and children, I am learning teamwork, leadership, and the ability to provide a nurturing environment.  These skills will help my future career plans because I want to be a social worker for children, and as such, I need to be able to work with my colleagues to provide a safe and therapeutic environment for the children in my care.

Even though I am only half way through my internship, I have already learned so much and am excited to continue learning as the summer progresses.

If you would like to learn more about The Walker School, visit this link to watch a video that talks about the different components of Walker.  It is a special place.

– Avi Cohen ’15

My First Week at The Walker School

This past week was my first full week working at The Walker School in Needham, MA.  The Walker School offers a range of special education and mental health services that provide intensive therapeutic and academic programs for children, adolescents, and their families.  The Walker Needham campus offers a variety of services, including an Intensive Residential Treatment Program, an Intensive Community-Based Acute Treatment Program, and a school and summer camp.  The programs are created for children ages 3 to 15 with severe emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities or with a history of past trauma, including sexual abuse or disrupted foster placements.  These programs provide therapeutic learning and living environments that help children to learn, grow, and heal and integrate successfully into society.

The Walker School Logo

As an intern in the Intensive Residential Treatment Program, I will participate as a member of a treatment team to meet the social, recreational, behavioral, and educational needs of children with severe emotional and behavioral difficulties and with histories of past trauma.  I will plan, implement, and participate in social and recreational activities, help to provide a safe and therapeutic milieu, and assist with the implementation of treatment protocols.  I will also co-lead activity-based groups for small numbers of children, work one-on-one with children toward improvement of academic skills, and facilitate developmentally appropriate and normalizing experiences for children, such as reading before bedtime.

I found my internship through a series of networking.  I am on the Board of Directors for the Brookline Teen Center and was part of a committee that interviewed prospective Executive Directors.  The person we hired was the Director of Residential Services at Walker.  After talking with the teen center’s new Executive Director about summer internship possibilities, I applied for a position at Walker because my passion and experience align with the goals of the organization.  I emailed the Director of Child Care Training and was interviewed by the Vice President of Operations.  I then observed a residential program to determine if it was a proper fit and decided Walker would be an extremely valuable learning experience for me.

My first week at Walker was both rewarding and difficult.  After spending only an hour going over Walker’s policies, I began working in my assigned residential program.  All of the staff were extremely friendly and my coworkers immediately welcomed me to their program, introduced me to all of the children, and put me straight to work.  Even after just one week, I can already tell that it will take the children a while to completely trust me, as many of them were previously hurt (either physically and/or emotionally) by adults in their lives.  While some children quickly accepted my presence, others were more resistant listening to my instructions or even talking to me or sitting next to me.  Regardless of these hesitations, my coworkers reassured me that, with time and the stability of my presence, the children will grow to trust me.

The Main Entrance to The Walker School

This summer, I hope to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible out of my time at Walker.  Above all else, I want to learn, to the best of my ability, how to help children who have gone through difficult times.  I want to be a social worker for children  when I grow older, and I believe that Walker will provide me with extremely valuable knowledge and skills, such as how to make children who have experienced abuse feel comfortable and safe around you.  Once children feel they can trust you, they are then more likely to open up to you and the true healing can begin.

– Avi Cohen ’15