I first heard of Applied Behavior Analysis through the doctors and therapists who worked with my sister, Sophia, upon the transition from an orphanage to our family in our home. I was a sophomore in high school when we became sisters through adoption and ever since then Sophia has continuously guided my passion in serving others.
I am now entering my junior year of college, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at IUPUC. For my professional practice summer course, my search of an internship placement led me to Cornerstone Autism Center. I had only heard briefly about ABA as a recommendation for my sister as she was recently placed on the Autism Spectrum. I did some research on autism for my social psychology course in the spring and decided that interning with Cornerstone would be helpful in determining possible career goals for myself as well as learning different, effective approaches to my role as a big sister.
Wrapping up my 8-week internship, I can reflect on how these last several weeks have been so beneficial to my education, career, professional experience, and my family. I started out shadowing the ABA therapists at the Columbus campus and getting to know the sweet kids. The staff has blown me away with their positive and welcoming energy toward me and each other and I can clearly see how the compassion of each staff member is integrated into the work they do.
Working with the therapists at Cornerstone has taught me a lot about facilitating the development of social skills, properly handling behaviors, and finding unique tactics to best fit the learning style of each child. Part of my internship consists of doing reading and research assignments on a subject within my placement and compiling a bibliography of sources to return to my professional practice instructor. The background information has given me a better understanding of the causes behind behavior and why certain actions are taken in therapy sessions.
My duties at Cornerstone this summer have consisted of preparing a weekly craft for the kids and designing the bulletin board that would showcase the crafts that week. I help prepare lunches, take monthly videos for therapists, and toward the end of my internship, I was given the responsibility of teaching social groups for both age groups. I have been challenged out of my comfort zone during my internship, but in the most positive way.
Even though I knew about ABA, stepping foot in the field was never on my radar and I really just stumbled upon the internship opportunity as a result of writing for my social psychology course. It has been my long term goal to obtain a Master of Science in Developmental Trauma and work with people from hard places through Trust-Based Relational Intervention. I want to be a part of alleviating the orphan crisis and the effects thereof.
I had a peace that interning at Cornerstone was where I was supposed to be this summer, however, the impact of this experience has been greater than I ever imagined. A few weeks into my placement, I began to share with my mom about the results of ABA and how far these children have come through this intervention treatment. “You have to check this out,” I told my mom, “I can just see Sophia here, thriving.” Soon after, my mom and sister took a tour of the Columbus center and met with the sweet people with whom I’d had the joy of working.
I was so happy to see Sophia’s name on the waiting list the following week and hear from the staff members about how well she would fit in. What I have learned and heard from other families is that, with autism, you have to take a thousand different approaches to find the perfect fit. Therefore, when you meet someone who sees value and potential in your family member as much as you do, it makes a world of difference. As for me, no matter what career field in which I end up, I know that the hope that sees a greater future for another and the faith that guides the action to make that hope a reality is what will make the most positive difference. As for my family, I anticipate that the work of Cornerstone will leave an impact far after my internship placement is over.
June 30, 2016, Emily Edwards