2015 PFIG Recipient Jendayi Johnson

Career Administrator

Journal Entry #1: First Week Jitters

 This summer, I will be spending my summer interning with the Virginia Institute of Autism in Charlottesville with children ranging from 7 to 13 years of age. The Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA) was established in the winter of 1996. VIA provides specialized education for students with autism spectrum disorder while aiming to improve communication, academic, leisure, and life skills. VIA’s ultimate goal is to prepare their students to further integrate into family and community life. Since it first opened, VIA has been recognized for its quality education and family-friendly work culture.

As an intern, I will gradually transition from training and observing classroom procedures to applying the skills that I will learn to teach the students one-on-one. More specifically, some of my duties as an intern include employing applied behavior analysis (ABA) techniques while working with students on their communication, academic, self-help, and leisure skills. I will also collect skill and behavior data and help supervise the students during group activities, lunchtime, and recess. 

During my first week at VIA, I started off with completing my new hire paperwork and training. Some of the training most specific to the job included completing and receiving a certificate for a child abuse workshop and learning how to properly write incident reports. On my second day at VIA, I visited the classroom for the first time, and met all of the students and observed them working with their instructors, Speech-Language, Pathologists, and Occupational Therapists. By the end of the week, I learned how to collect data using the ACE system that the instructors use and I ran my first few programs working with a student on number, letter, and coin identification. 

Even though I have only been at VIA for one week, I have learned a great deal during this time frame. For example, in my education classes, my instructors always emphasized that every student with autism is very different. After reading the learner profiles on the students to better learn how to reinforce each individual student and learning about their strengths and weaknesses as well as interacting with the students I found this to be very true. I also learned how wide of a range a curriculum for children with autism covers. Not only do children with autism have to learn academic skills, they also have to learn everyday life skills at school as well. I also learned multiple techniques that can be used to reinforce each student to help them stay on task and to encourage appropriate behaviors. 

There are many opportunities at VIA to see how different professionals work with students to provide the best services for the students possible. I have observed instructors, Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), and Occupational Therapists. I am looking forward to possibly observing an SLP doing therapy sessions with adults for the first time. I am also looking forward to building up my skills to eventually work with the student one-on-one. 

During my time at VIA I would like to learn more about different techniques that the SLPs use to help the students work on their pragmatic skills, pronunciation, and fluency. I would also like to learn to more ABA skills so that I can employ them while instructing students and in my future career.