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My name is Shelby Waldron and I am a senior Psychology and Exercise and Sport Science double major from Brandon, FL. As a Gil Intern, I am working at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD). CIDD is one of the few national comprehensive centers for services, research, and training regarding individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. I am working under the guidance of Dr. Laura Hiruma and Dr. Jean Mankowski on both the pediatric and adult autism assessment clinics, the school-age team, and the hearing and development clinic.

I first discovered my passion for working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through volunteering with the Special Olympics. From there, I went on to work with this population in a variety of settings and was inspired to pursue a career in occupational therapy in order to help these individuals increase their independence and quality of life. However, I was missing an experience which would combine my passion for working with this population with my goal of working in the healthcare field, enter CIDD.

Every day at CIDD is a little different, as I work on four different bi-weekly clinics and every case is unique. Despite the dynamic nature, I typically have the set role of observing the administration of cognitive, adaptive, and autism assessments, recording and sharing behavioral observations, and scoring rating scales and assessments. A majority of the cases I’ve seen have involved administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) in order to screen for autism. However, no one case has been the same. I learned how to take into account children’s different and complex medical history (e.g. hearing loss and language disorders), how different autism presentation can look between kids, and the key features that while varying slightly in presentation, need to be present for a diagnosis of autism. This experience has been invaluable, as no class has taught me how to screen for autism in a child that is both deaf and blind or how to take into account severe hearing loss and being raised in a household that only speaks a different language when testing verbal skills. In addition, this experience has also given me a new appreciation for a holistic approach, as I work on interdisciplinary teams with professionals from psychology, speech-language pathology, occupational and physical therapy, audiology, and education. As a result, I have seen how an interdisciplinary approach provides a more complete picture of a child’s developmental and cognitive profile and subsequently, more accurate diagnoses.

My experience as a Gil Intern has reaffirmed my passion for working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and provided me with a greater understanding of what working with this population in a clinical/health care setting looks like. I have gained invaluable hands-on experience, a strong foundation in clinical assessments and reports, and professional development, all of which will be highly beneficial in graduate school.  I would like to thank Dr. Buzinski and Molly Corrigan for allowing me this opportunity and for their continued support and guidance throughout the process.


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