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Hello! My name is Foster Hager, and I am a junior from Apex, North Carolina majoring in psychology with minors in neuroscience and Spanish speaking for the health professions. I’m passionate about disability acceptance and mental health. My Gil Internship placement is at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD). I also spend time as a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern at Cardinal Points Therapy, a peer buddy at Best Buddies UNC, and a volunteer swim instructor at Dive In – Chapel Hill. I aspire to pursue a career in occupational therapy.  


The CIDD is a wide-reaching center which generates research, assessment, diagnosis, consultation, and services for those with developmental disabilities and their families. I have had the pleasure of studying the CIDD’s assessment, consultation, and diagnosis services under Dr. Jean Mankowski, a licensed psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the CIDD.  


Specifically, I have been involved in the Early Childhood Clinics, School-Age Team, Hearing and Development Clinics, and Dup15q and Angelman Syndrome Clinics. The first three of these clinics consult primarily with parents whose children have or are suspected of having autism, as well as intellectual disability, developmental delays, speech and hearing differences, and sensory differences. The Dup15q and Angelman Syndrome Clinics provide consultations to parents of children with Dup15q syndrome or Angelman syndrome. All of CIDD’s clinics employ an interdisciplinary team which works to provide comprehensive feedback for families to support their child. These teams are a combination of psychologists, speech and language pathologists, audiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, pediatricians, psychiatrists, and neurologists. If a child is suspected of having intellectual or developmental disability, the CIDD provides excellent diagnostic and consultation services to direct parents towards services which will fit their child’s needs. The CIDD also frequently provides updated testing and consultation for behavioral concerns, especially in those with multiple cross-disciplinary diagnoses.  


In my role as undergraduate intern, I have had the opportunity to observe the administration of various cognitive and achievement assessments, including the DAS, ADOS, Mullen, Bayley, WAIS, and WJ. During these assessments, I’ve written behavioral observations targeting transitions, mood, affect, engagement, communication styles, and behavior. I also help score cognitive and screening assessments, including the DAS, ADOS, SCQ, SRS, Vineland, and BASC. After all assessments have been administered and the clinical team meets to discuss scores, observations, and diagnoses, I have had the privilege of observing diagnostic and evaluative feedback conferences for parents. These conversations can be difficult, especially if diagnoses come unexpectedly. Our teams do a wonderful job of guiding parents through a thorough discussion of the diagnosis and its meaning while still placing emphasis on the child’s strengths. After these conferences, the interdisciplinary team writes up their reports in a long document for the parents, any healthcare providers, and the school system to refer to. One of my jobs is to write up sections of these reports and to revise reports, ensuring that all information is conveyed thoroughly and clearly. From start to finish, the CIDD walks parents through all their questions and ensures that all their questions and concerns are addressed. 


Witnessing the clinical excellence and care that CIDD staff employs has inspired me to strive for such excellence in my own future clinical work. My experiences at CIDD have also given me observational skills, knowledge about diversity and intersectionality within autism and IDD, and an appreciation for interdisciplinary work. I would like to thank Dr. Jean Mankowski for making this incredible opportunity possible for me, Emily Dolegowski for avidly supporting and advising me throughout this internship, and Dr. Steven Buzinski for teaching me confidence and professionalism which will aid me in all my career pursuits. Lastly, this Gil Internship has been one of the highlights of my undergraduate experience. I would like to thank the Karen M. Gil Internship program for making this opportunity possible for me. Without these experiences, I would not have discovered my passion for occupational therapy. 

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