Friday July 25
Jean Perez, ’15
Days and hours at the internship site: From the day that I started my internship (Jun 2) until now (July 28) two whole months have gone by and I have successfully completed 200 hours at my internship site.
My internship at Riverside Early Intervention has given me the opportunity to achieve the three initial goals that I had at the beginning of this whole journey. My first goal had to do with academics. Initially I wanted to expand my understanding of topics covered in the course, Disorders of Childhood. During the internship I observed and got hands on experience with both psychological and physiological disorders in children with disabilities. The experience has helped me to understand that that these two aspects originate from many sources including environmental factors and family genetics. As I went through many of the readings that were assigned, I quickly learned new things and how to apply these new skills to the work that I was doing with the kids. For example, one of the things that I learned was that many kids have sensory needs and so by helping the children learn about different textures I was showing them how to explore the world and learn new information. This was a therapeutic way to experience the world around them and ultimately enhanced their learning abilities.
My second goal dealt with the career path that I am most likely going to be taking after I graduate college and get my Master’s degree. After my experience at Riverside Early Intervention, I am now considering becoming a developmental specialist for children with special needs. Also, my second goal was to be able to treat children with special needs effectively. By doing charts reviews, reading articles based on different disorders, and learning about the maturation process of children, I have increased my understanding of child development. With the training and the knowledge that I have gained at Riverside from their team of specialists, I can now detect motor disorders and developmental disorders such as Autism with ease. I can also treat these disorders by applying the same techniques and concepts that developmental specialists, social workers, speech language pathologists and physical therapists use at the early intervention center.
My third goal was a personal one. I wanted to increase my understanding of the family dynamics and intervention methods that are used to assist children with different disabilities. In this internship I have learned that one of the most important factors that can help a child with special needs is to have a supportive environment both at home and outside the house. Many parents simply do not know how to properly handle a child with special needs. At Riverside, the work that I was doing with my co-workers offered parents help, and taught them how to properly interact with their child and further their child’s learning process. These proper interactions ranged from sign language for those children with limited vocabulary, to working with children and facilitating communication by getting at their level and coping with their needs instead of taking a hostile approach. Many intervention methods included communicating with children and engaging them by using simple and short vocabulary, usually one to three word phrases. Also, using visuals is an excellent way to communicate with children with special needs. Specialists at Riverside use a computer program called “Board Maker” with which they create a curriculum for kids using pictures and words to communicate the action of the picture. This way, a child can make sense of words by linking both the words and the picture. Other intervention methods include the social aspects of daily life. At Riverside, children are taught how to socially interact with others by simply saying their name. However, other intricate forms of interaction can include sharing and learning to say “thanks” and “excuse me”. As simple as it sounds, these kinds of methods are the ones that can help a child with special needs to do better later in life. Overall, my whole experience was a successful because I had fun doing it and I do not regret any of it.
A very valuable lesson that I have learned that can be useful in the classroom at Brandeis and beyond in the workforce is to always accept any good advice that others with more training and professionalism have to offer because that advice can help one to improve and to keep learning. It is important to also be patient and to reflect about how far one has come. It is impressive the amount of information that one takes in with such an internship. Overall, the biggest lesson that this whole experience has taught me is to never limit myself and to always think big because the world is full of possibilities and it is up to the individual to shape his own destiny and future.
Upon graduation, I want to get a job in the same type of environment as my former internship and work for a year so that I can gain more experience in the field. This way, I would be doing what I love the most—working with children—and I would be entering the workforce and learning even more. If I could advise any intern looking to work with children with disabilities, Riverside Early Intervention is a must go! Riverside became a second family for me in such a short amount of time. I would definitely encourage an intern to spend a summer working there! The only thing that I would warn a student about is that he must love what he is doing, be patient, have an open mind to learn new things, and be able to take advice from others to increase his understanding of child development. Lastly, I would remind any student that no one is going to get rich by working with kids. There is not a lot of money to be made in this industry or field, but it is a decent job and it is extremely rewarding.