May 22, 2013, by khyx2lyn
Life of an Intern – Autism Centre
I worked in the Hua Ming Autism Centre located at Old Klang Road for a month during the summer break, after coming back from the United Kingdom. I would have loved to work longer, but the autism centre had an excess of interns working over the period of June to August. Even though the period of my internship was short, I did learn a lot, and it was an unforgettable experience working with special needs children.
Interacting with the autistic children is a completely different experience from what we have learnt from textbooks and lecture notes. It was a great challenge for me. On the first day of my internship, a little girl in my class soiled herself. The teacher and I had to help clean her and change her clothes. There was a small 7-year-old boy, who kept spitting (it was an involuntary action), but the teacher who worked there never got angry at the child. She carried a towel with her, and whenever he spat, she would take his hand and guide him in cleaning the floor. This allowed the boy to learn that he had to be responsible for what his actions and to clean the mess that he made. It really required a lot of patience, and compassion to work with the children at the centre.
Most of the children in the centre couldn’t speak, but they would show their affection by hugging you, or smiling at you. I felt really happy every time a child gave me such a response. That was how I learnt to be observant, in order to communicate accordingly with the children; I had to look for nonverbal cues. The centre used approaches such as “The Picture Communication Exchange System (PECS)” and visual aids to help the children learn. Teachers would use a visual timetable that displayed the time and simple drawings that represented the activities, so that the children knew exactly what they would be doing, and when. There was a multi-sensory playroom in the centre as well, to stimulate and challenge all of the senses, so that the autistic children could play like other typically developed children.
I am uncertain if I will continue working in this field. However, this experience had given me a valuable insight into the lives of autistic children and how it was like working with them. It was definitely an eye-opening experience.
Vivian Ng Wing Wei
(Year 3 Student in BSc (Hons.) Psychology, UNMC)
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