Post 5: My Fifth Week At The Quad Manhattan

One important lesson I have learned during my time at The Quad Manhattan is that in order to be successful in a social justice field, you have to have perseverance and be willing to be flexible. During the past five weeks, I have been faced with challenges that came completely out of left field. Whether it was working with the kids or sometimes with my fellow staff members, I had to keep a thick skin and always be willing to reach out for help and go the extra mile. I believe that these skills are important in any social justice environment.

It was this flexibility and perseverance that allowed me to have a large impact on The Quad Manhattan this summer. As the summer progressed, I proved myself and was given more responsibility. I have three kids that I am “tracking” and have been given most of the responsibility of taking care of them throughout the day. In addition to overseeing these three kids, I have helped out extra with the camper’s theatre classes. Whenever possible, I have worked with the theatre specialist and used my past theatre experience and psychology education to tailor the theatre lessons to my kids. I truly think that by being at The Quad Manhattan I have increased the experience of all the campers in my group.

Food made by campers during cooking class

One thing I know now that I wish I had known when I started this internship was that it is okay to stand up for yourself when you are placed in an uncomfortable situation. As I began to prove myself this summer, I was placed in harder and harder situations with both the kids and the staff until I reached a point where I just hadn’t received enough training to continue on by myself. At first I tried to just tough it out, but eventually it became apparent that if I didn’t reach out and ask for help I would be doing a disservice to both myself and the kids. I was hired as an intern whose job it was to learn and use what I learned to help the campers, not as a paid teacher who was expected to run the classroom. Once I reached out, I was given more tools to succeed, and I felt much more confident in dealing with these difficult situations.

A piece of advice I would give to someone else doing this internship next summer would be to make sure to make time for yourself. It has been very easy to let work overwhelm my life this summer. I found myself in a terrible cycle of going to work, eating dinner, sleeping, and then going back to work, and I quickly became burnt out. Luckily, I realized this a couple of weeks into the internship and made much-needed changes to my routine. I started organizing going out after work with other interns, seeing as much theatre as possible, and even just making sure I watched an hour of television without doing any work before going to bed. These tiny changes helped keep me from becoming drained and improved both my personal health and my ability to do my job.

I love working with these kids and have been putting everything I have into making sure they have the best experience possible and take away as many skills and strategies as they can. Even though there have been ups and downs, I am very glad that I chose to take this internship at The Quad Manhattan this summer. I have learned so much and have been exposed to so many new theories and ways of thinking and can’t wait to take this experience and work towards what is next.

Post 4: My Fourth Week at The Quad Manhattan

Throughout my time at The Quad Manhattan I have been developing a lot of different skills that will be applicable when working both with neuro-typical kids and kids with disabilities. As I mentioned in my last post, one idea that has been reaffirmed during my time at The Quad Manhattan is that our education system is moving in the wrong direction. The push for common core curriculum is killing the sparse amounts of adjustable education that existed and ALL kids are worse off for it. I always knew that common core wasn’t the right move for education, but before working at The Quad Manhattan I had no idea what other techniques were out there.

The wall of camper and staff art

Collaborative problem solving (CPS) is one of the skills that they have been teaching us. This system puts an emphasis on the fact that all kids want to be good and do the right thing, but when they are acting out they are lacking the skills to do so, not the wish to. Another large part of CPS is involving the child in the decision making. Instead of telling the child “you were doing this so we are going to do this,” you have a conversation where you try and see if they have any ideas of what is the problem and how to fix it. Most of the time the kid has ideas but is so used to just being told what to do that they don’t know how to take control of their own behavior because they have never been allowed to. I hope to employ these skills whenever I work with kids in the future. Not only has employing CPS helped me connect with kids in a new way, but I have seen this technique give kids a sense of autonomy like I have never seen before.

The Quad has also given me a lot of confidence in myself. Once camp started, I was thrown right into the thick of things. I am constantly problem-solving with kids, helping them through activities, and maneuvering tantrums. This is also my first job that requires me to work typical hours. In the past, my jobs have been either part time or in theatre where I worked long but strange hours. Even though the days are long and challenging, I have loved every second of it, and my time here has proven to me that I am ready to enter this field.

Our ‘noticing trees’. The leaves are full of positive actions of all of the campers.

Post 3: My Third Week at The Quad Manhattan

The social justice goal of The Quad Manhattan is to ensure that every child is able to get the best possible education. The public school system in Manhattan is not equipped to give twice exceptional students an education that both enriches their giftedness while giving necessary support for their learning and social difficulties. In non-specialized environments, twice exceptional students are recognized as being gifted but are called “lazy” since they lack executive functioning or other skills that allow them to take their talents and apply them to their school work. Or, their learning defects or disorders are all that is recognized and they are put in special education classes where their giftedness is left untapped and is not allowed to grow.

In the context of The Quad Manhattan, positive change in education looks like targeted personalized lessons instead of common core curriculum. Every child learns and experiences the world in different ways. It makes no sense to assume that one method is going to work for everyone. The Quad Manhattan only targets twice exceptional children, but this small step is making way for larger educational change. The Quad Manhattan demonstrates that personalized education is possible, and through its psychosocial intern training is teaching the new generation of psychology professionals the theories and methods that will allow for change in both private and public education.

Door sign I created for my classroom (with names removed)

As I discussed in my last post, The Quad Manhattan creates the change they want to see in education through personalization. As much information as possible is gathered from each child’s medical professionals and parents to allow us to create targeted programming for them. One part of this targeted programming that I did not mention in my last post is how The Quad Manhattan focuses more on social and life skills than school subjects, since it is a summer camp and not a summer school. Since I am working with the oldest kids in the camp, we are focusing more on life skills than the other groups. One way we are doing this is by planning field trips. We had our campers suggest locations that they want to visit and we will go on multiple field trips throughout the summer. During these outings, the campers will have to navigate the subway, deal with crowded spaces, and learn to interact with each other and the public in a new environment (with constant staff support of course).

Part of the set up for camp carnival

Since it was the first week of camp instead of “Field Trip Friday,” we had “Funky Friday,” which was an all camp carnival. I got to be the fortune teller, which allowed me to interact with all of the kids in the camp instead of just my group, which I loved. Before the carnival, I went to each of the group’s interns and teachers and gathered information on all of the kids, which I turned into cheat sheets that allowed me to have the younger kids believe I was actually psychic.

I got to use my theatre background while interacting with the campers, but the best part of the experience was seeing how truly different every child was. Between hearing all about each camper from their teachers and getting to spend two minutes talking to each child, I got to see firsthand how unique every child was, even within this twice exceptional “niche.” I was very privileged that the way my public school decided was the “correct” way to teach was a way that I was able to pretty easily follow. Being at The Quad Manhattan has opened my eyes to the insane number of different types of learners there are, and I am excited to keep learning and adding tools to my professional toolbox.

The “Wheel of Mystery” that was a part of my fortune teller booth

Post 2: My Second Week at The Quad Manhattan

While at Brandies, I have felt an emphasis on the lesson that “fair does not mean equal.” Every person has different sets of strengths and challenges that affect how they are able to maneuver the world around them. More than that, Brandeis has taught me that it is not okay to just understand that fair does not mean equal; you have to do your best to create an environment where everyone can meet their highest potential. I am consistently inspired by my fellow students coordinating rides to every Women’s March, posting about rallies calling for the end of ICE separating children from their families, and general support for each other on campus.

This lesson is extremely relevant at The Quad Manhattan. All of the psychosocial interns have spent the last two weeks pouring over each child’s file and reading all possible information to give us the best sense of what each camper’s goals and strategies should be for the summer. Everything from DSM diagnosis to favorite books is noted by staff to create a personalized plan for each camper. As we have been setting up classrooms, we look into therapy notes to see what type of “fidgets” or other sensory tools will help each child, as well as what type of visual aids or strategies will be most useful. The reason every aspect of The Quad Manhattan is so personalized is because of this idea that fair does not mean equal. If the program was less personalized and gave each child with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD the same accommodations, the program would be equal but not fair, and wouldn’t give each kid the same chances of success.

Handmade Zones of Regulation sign for my classroom

This idea of fair does not mean equal allows me to contextualize my work in terms of social justice issues because it doesn’t just speak to allowing the kids to thrive within The Quad Manhattan, but helps us teach them how to have the best life possible when they are not in a specialized program. This idea of fair does not mean equal allows our kids to take not only their personalized strategies with them, but the ability to advocate for themselves. Once they graduate high school and either enter college or the work force, the understanding that it is okay to ask for extra help and the knowledge of what type of extra help they need will help these Twice Exceptional kids live their best lives possible.

One of the ‘Nooks’ that is in each classroom. Each is filled with bean bags and ‘fidgets’ to give kids a place to calm down when they are having a hard time.

I have loved the opportunity to create this personalized “fair does not mean equal” based programming for The Quad Manhattan, not only because I believe it is the right thing to do, but because it has given me a crash course in the world of practical psychology. I have learned so much about how to take general information from multiple sources that often times have conflicting information and create an action plan. We have our first day of camp on Monday and I am looking forward to learning how to adapt the plans we have made based on the new information we learn in person about each of our campers.

Post 1: First Week at The Quad Manhattan

Hi everyone! My name is Remony Perlman and this summer I am a Psycho-Social Intern at The Quad Manhattan, a summer camp and after school program for kids who are Twice Exceptional (2E). 2E kids are gifted intellectually or creatively, but also have some sort of learning differences such as lagging executive functioning skills, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and many others. Due to their unique levels of ability, 2E kids often do not have the proper educational or social settings that focuses on elevating their giftedness while also giving necessary supports to the skills in which they are lagging. The Quad Manhattan fights this social injustice by offering the unique type of environment that lets 2E children grow to their full potential. 2E is only recently being recognized in the psychology community, and the field is just learning how to create proper environments to help these kids become the best they can be. The Quad Manhattan is at the forefront of this movement and has been providing the best possible care for these kids for nine summers.

As a Psycho-Social Intern, I am furthering The Quad’s mission because I am on the front lines, ensuring that each child is receiving the best care possible. All of the Psycho-Social Interns completed a pre-work reading list, and are currently going through a two-week intensive orientation that is teaching us the various techniques (such as collaborative problem solving) employed by The Quad Manhattan. Even just four days of this training has already proven invaluable. I have learned so much and I am so excited to be able to employ all the strategies they have given us.

Some of our assigned reading

By the end of the summer I hope to feel completely confident using all of the skills I am being taught while in the middle of an escalated situation in the field. We have done role playing sessions and talked through many scenarios, but I know that it will be completely different when using the technique with the kids, since each kid is unique and has different sets of abilities and challenges.

I also hope to learn from being a part of the theatre courses taken by the kids at The Quad Manhattan. I am a Psychology and Theatre major and a Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST) minor, and am very interested in combining all of my studies by pursuing a career in Drama Therapy. This is my first opportunity to use theatre in a therapeutic setting and I am so excited to be able to learn and grow from the experience.