Internship gives student chance to learn about self, others

The knowledge and skills gained from summer internships aren’t only useful in business settings.

Some opportunities transcend traditional learning experiences, offering the chance for students to learn more about themselves and their personality – fundamentally changing one’s  perception of the world.

That type of adventure was just what rising senior Shamin Jamadar was looking for this summer as part of her SECU Public Service Fellows internship with Greenville’s ACES for Autism.

Clients at ACES for Autism are center provided with doctor-prescribed, evidence-based therapies aimed to improve the lives of children affected by autism.

The nonprofit organization opened its doors in 2016, providing center-based services for children and families affected by autism. The center provides doctor-prescribed, evidence-based therapies aimed to improve the lives of children affected by the disorder. ACES is the only autism clinic in North Carolina east of Interstate 95.

“I’ve never worked with autistic children, so I wanted to push my limits while learning more about the disorder,” Jamadar said. “Training was a lot at first. You think ‘Oh, I’ve worked with kids in the past,’ and you think that’s enough of a prerequisite to come in and just start on day one. It’s absolutely not.

“It was extensive and a little overwhelming, but once you get through training, it’s worth it to work with the children and see them every day,” she said. “Having that connection and opportunity to watch them grow is awesome.”

The psychology major wanted an internship that pushed her to her limits. ACES for Autism’s use of applied behavior analysis therapy offered her that option, while also being anchored in her field of study.

“This site and internship specifically stood out because part of it is based in psychology and human behavior, so that interested me,” Jamadar said. “We’re working with kids on important life skills that improve the wellbeing of their daily lives. Whether we’re learning how to fold clothes or learning how to interact and play with others, each therapy session is specifically tailored to each client. It’s endearing because you get to learn all their unique personalities.”

While her internship has been rewarding, Jamadar said it hasn’t been all fun and games. The challenge of working with special-needs children is demanding on even the most well-trained program leader at ACES. However, Jamadar said the benefits, and the perspective she’s gained while interning, are worth it.

“It’s definitely challenging,” Jamadar said. “A lot of patience is required. It can be difficult to always have to smile and always be ready to be up and moving. It doesn’t matter how your day has been or what you’re going through; I’ve learned when you’re here, you’re here for the kids. Forget about the GRE, forget about school, forget about classes; you have to be focused on your kids.”

ACES for Autism Program Coordinator Amy Moore agreed with Jamadar that working at the internship site can be tough, but is thankful that students can be exposed to centers like ACES through the program.

“I hope that next year we’re having a similar conversation with our intern,” Moore said.” It’s a really taxing job, but I think it’s one of the most rewarding experiences an intern can have. You get to see the little successes and are able to celebrate them with the children. The Public Service Fellows internship program helps us in our mission to provide quality treatment to kids with autism. That’s something we’re very thankful for.”

Increasing awareness

Moore hopes that working with the internship program gives her center, and autism, a greater place in the spotlight.

“Sometimes I feel like in eastern North Carolina the understanding of autism isn’t as strong as it could be,” she said. “With that being said, I think working with PSF and the community spreads awareness and increases autism understanding; whether it’s a class or community presentation, any time we can advance awareness of autism is great.”

Jamadar said that working with the program has made her reflect on her own life and her interactions with others.

“The events that ACES hosts have a lot of community support and offer engagement opportunities, but I’m not sure that before this I put a lot of thought into the reason why they have events or who the center was helping,” Jamadar said. “I don’t think people really understand what ACES is and the awesome services they provide.

“Seeing the difference they’ve made in the lives of these kids and their families makes me want to make a difference,” she said. “I’m going to go out in the community and tell others about this program and raise awareness. You can volunteer, donate and be a part of something local. Now that I’ve seen the other side of this program, I realize how important it is to the community.”

The SECU Public Service Fellows internship program is hosted by ECU’s Office of Community Engagement and Research. Visit the office online to learn more about the program. Learn how you can help ACES for Autism at the center’s website.