Internship Completion at Riverside Early Intervention

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.

McLab Midpoint

Five weeks after I started working again at the McAllister Lab of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, I am already halfway done with my internship! Since I started, I have been very busy running all different types of experiments. Some tasks that I have been busy doing are immunohistochemistry, protocol optimization, and tissue culture. There have definitely been obstacles along the way, including faulty reagents and cell line contamination, but I have been trying pace myself and take it all with a grain of salt.

After the first week, I started feeling comfortable with working more independently in the lab. I was stressed during that first week, but once I figured out what I needed to do, it felt just like it did last summer when I was working without my mentor. In the past few weeks, I have been planning experiments with my given timetable, and it’s not as scary as I initially thought it would be. Unfortunately, even when I plan well in advance for some experiments, I have stopped by the lab during weekends because of time-sensitive protocols. (The cells don’t take a break!) I have also been receiving a lot of guidance along the way from two other post-doctoral researchers and the current lab manager in terms of guiding me through procedures, so I am extremely grateful for their assistance.

At this moment, I am most proud of my ability to plan out my days so that each are very productive. When I was a summer student here during previous years, there were some occasions where I would have down-time. This summer, I have much less down-time because I am so busy running experiments. I feel that every day that I am here, I am making very good use of my time. With regard to project progression, I generated some data that was inconsistent with previous results. In a mouse experiment with old and young mice bearing breast cancer tumors, I previously found differences in the presence of a certain type of protein. However, this time around, I found that there was no difference. The data was unexpected, but it is very important for us to consider when the paper for the Aging Project gets written. I have been learning new lab skills, such as working with dilutions and graphing tumor kinetics data on Excel. I previously haven’t had much experience with generating figures from a data set, so I am now glad that I am able to do so. I have also learned the importance of analyzing data blindly – that is, reviewing qualitative data as objectively as possible by hiding the different cohorts there are in an experiment. As a future scientist, it will be very important for me to keep this in mind; it is best to generate and review data in this fashion because bias can easily skew interpretation.

Finally, in addition to everything I have been learning and experiencing in the lab, I have been having a great experience outside of all the benchwork. I am definitely building stronger networks by talking more to my other labmates and getting a chance to talk to those who are in other labs. In fact, I had the fortune of having a great conversation with a Brandeis 2012 alum who worked in one of the neighboring labs; he left the state for medical school the week afterwards. And lastly, each year the McAllister Lab has annual social events with the Dr. Robert Weinberg Lab of MIT’s Whitehead Institute, Dr. McAllister’s post-doctoral research affiliation. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Weinberg himself at both the annual Weinberg Picnic and Weinberg Beach Day.

Dr. Sandra McAllister Lab at the annual Dr. Robert Weinberg Picnic
McLab Members at the annual Weinberg Beach Day at Wingaersheek Beach (Gloucester, MA). We named our new friend McCrab!
McLab Members at the annual Weinberg Beach Day at Wingaersheek Beach (Gloucester, MA). We named our new friend McCrab!

Irene Wong, ’17


Last Days at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic

My internship at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital ended with a four-hour program named Fun Day on Friday, August 10th 2012. As a Biology and HSSP major, my main academic goal was to apply my knowledge from the classroom to a clinical setting by interacting with patients and various health care professionals. Every morning I walked into the clinic with an open mind and a positive attitude. The first thing I did was check the schedule of appointments for the day. When patients arrived, sometimes I helped the nurses with triaging the patients, such as taking their height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure. Most of time I looked over patients’ family and medical history, calculated their body mass index, and plotted the data on the growth chart to monitor their development. I also examined patients’ dietary and physical activity level with the dietitian in order to conduct nutritional counseling. From observing the clinic staff’s interaction with the patient and participating in medical case discussion following each patient’s visit, I learned that obesity is a complicated illness with many factors. By collecting and analyzing surveys, data, and organizing the program Fun Day 2012, I realized that while it is important to educate the child about the importance of balanced nutrition and portion size, it is more essential to encourage his family members to provide physical and mentor support, and to foster a positive environment at home for healthy eating and weight loss. Additionally I learned that childhood obesity does not only result in medical comorbidities, overweight or obese children are often victims of bullying at school, which may further cause these children to develop emotional eating, low self-confidence, and even depression. This creates a vicious cycle that sustains the childhood obesity epidemic.

Fun Day 2012 – Bike riding with the Bluegrass Cycling Club
Fun Day 2012 – How to pack a budget-friendly, well-balanced lunch for school

My summer at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic has fulfilled my learning goals and exceeded my expectations. I will return to Brandeis with a new perspective on health and illnesses. I will further reflect upon my experience in the HSSP89 Internship Analysis course. In the future, I would like to continue learning about obesity and related illnesses and possibly take courses on nutrition and dietetics. After seeing how I, as merely an undergraduate student, can contribute in making a difference in people’s lifestyles, I became even more enthusiastic and motivated  to pursue a career in healthcare and medical practice. During the entire course of my internship, I felt like I was a piece of a puzzle that fit right in. I can picture myself working in a clinical or hospital setting, shuffling in and out of examination rooms, or sitting at a desk making the ideal treatment plans for my patients.

Group picture with the clinic staff and a volunteer

I would recommend this internship at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital at the University of Kentucky (UK). UK is a large yet structured organization that houses many different departments. There are countless opportunities available. The student would just need to do his research to target the department of interest and actively contact the appropriate offices. For students who are interested in an internship in the healthcare industry, I would advise them to keep an open mind. Every patient is different, and every case is unique. As long as your interest lies there, you will never be bored working in the field of healthcare. – Yan Chu, ’13