A Postcard From: Nozomi Park ’19

Name: Nozomi Park
Class Year: 2019
Major: Psychology and Linguistics

Internship Placement: Center for Autism Research, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Location: Philadelphia

Regardless of already starting my fourth week as an intern at the Center for Autism Research (CAR), the orientation from the first week is still clear in my memory. In order to help us better understand autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the other interns and I were encouraged to attend Next Steps as part of our orientation. Next Steps is a workshop through CAR, for both professionals working with those who have ASD and families of individuals with ASD. The workshop covered a variety of topics surrounding ASD such as the current understanding of what ASD is, current services and supports available to individuals with ASD and their families, and current ongoing research on ASD.

Coming from an academic background focused on psychology and education, I believed I already came into this internship with a firm understanding of ASD. At the time, I was more interested in the current research surrounding ASD because I understood that the tasks I would performing this summer would be more involved in that area. However, Next Steps exceeded my expectations, introducing panel speakers who were not only made up of clinical researchers, but also had speakers who were therapists, teachers, and family members who are constantly and directly involved with individuals who have ASD. The workshop was not only information-rich about ASD, but it was inspirational with genuine voices of individuals who have struggled with ASD and looked for better interventions to improve the life quality of individuals with ASD.

That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t already motivated to be an intern at CAR. I was initially interested in ASD because of the continuous encounters I have had with ASD from my past experiences in classrooms and programs dedicated to individuals with learning disabilities. Every day of the past three weeks have been interesting as I have had the opportunity to learn about different programs to input and analyze linguistic data such as ELAN and XTrans. These opportunities strongly link both cognition and language and have pushed me to apply the foundations I have built throughout the psychology and linguistic courses I had taken.

Nevertheless, meeting the individuals who were clearly connected to the research I would be involved in and listening to their stories at Next Steps has sparked my curiosity in learning about the faces behind the data that I would work with every day. Each individual that has participated in a CAR study can have their own encounters or lack of encounters with ASD that can be both different and relatable. While this isn’t a profound discovery that I recently found through ‘Next Steps’, the workshop has certainly personalized my expectations of my own internship experience. Most importantly, the workshop has encouraged me to build a network with the professionals at CAR and listen to the variety of perspectives of their different backgrounds with ASD. Attending Next Steps had helped me to better understand and conceptualize my role at CAR.

Learn more about ASD and current research on ASD through CAR’s website, which also offers resources such as Next Steps.