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.
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.
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