As a young child, I had severe asthma and life-threatening allergies. I couldn’t attend a typical day care program. While my parents were at work, I needed to be near trained medical professionals in case I had a bad allergic or asthmatic attack.
That’s how I ended up at PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs for the first time. PACT, which is affiliated with Kennedy Krieger Institute, is central Maryland’s only medical child care center, and it was my home-away-from-home for about three years, before I started school.
This past year, my senior year of high school, I went back to PACT—this time, for an internship. I interned for a couple of hours every weekday. For the most part, I was like a teacher’s aide. When I started, I knew next to nothing about working with children with disabilities, but I was keen to learn. After all, PACT had helped me survive early childhood, so I figured the chances were good it might benefit me in early adulthood, too.
I loved seeing Sam’s confidence in himself grow over the course of the internship.” – Laura Denz, PACT
Early on in the internship, I was assigned to work with Jacob, a little boy with autism. He had trouble communicating with others. I watched PACT staff members closely, to see how they interacted with children with autism. I came up with a plan.
I began by just saying Jacob’s name. After a while, Jacob started saying “Mr. Sam” back to me. Then I started asking him to do small tasks, making it sound like he’d be doing me a favor. Gradually, Jacob began to work with me. It was slow going, but each little task and repeated name brought us closer together.
Working one-on-one with Jacob, who doesn’t see the world from the same perspective I do, was eye-opening. My communication skills improved so much. I think the internship helped me more than I helped the kids. I learned to see the world as I needed to see it in order to truly communicate with others.
I just entered college, and I plan to major in criminal justice, and possibly also in English. Even if I don’t go on in a therapy field, the communication skills I learned interning at PACT will help me tremendously throughout my life—I am confident of that.