What it’s Like to Gain Fieldwork Experience in an Interdisciplinary Pediatric Clinic Geared Toward Autism Therapy
January 10, 2022
January 10, 2022
Choosing to work with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is life-changing for everyone involved. Sometimes the choice is made long before entering a university, and sometimes it seems to fall into your lap.
No matter how they get there, our Hopebridge Heroes consider themselves lucky to have the opportunity to work in this community, and we wish to extend those opportunities even further.
As part of our vision to continue to help others learn and grow – which includes our kiddos and our team members – we are dedicated to supporting undergraduate and graduate level students on an array of paths. Through our Hopebridge Advancement & Learning Opportunities (HALO), we offer the Hopebridge Fieldwork Experience for students looking to elevate their careers in speech and occupational therapy, in addition to applied behavior analysis (ABA).
Whether students specifically seek out our programs or are placed in one of our pediatric clinics through partnerships with universities around the country, we provide a unique learning environment within the autism space so they can build upon their skill sets to use throughout their careers. Our goals are to supply best-in-class supervision and create an effective pathway for students to excel in school and beyond, all while reigniting their enthusiasm for their fields.
In addition to getting the rundown on our university partnerships from Hopebridge Student Fieldwork Coordinator and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L), Boyd Teusch, we spoke to former speech therapy and occupational therapy students for their perspectives. We asked them to share the benefits of working at Hopebridge to gain their clinical hours. Here are the main reasons they appreciated spending part of their schooling in our centers:
1. Insight into the world of autism and pediatrics
Many schools, hospitals and clinics offer pediatric outpatient experience, but the Hopebridge environment provides a deeper look into the autism community. With a program that is centered around early intensive behavioral interventions (EIBI), our students have the chance to work closely with the behavior side of treatment, in addition to using their skill sets to treat children with a range of other diagnoses. This includes having front-row “tickets” to view the progress of some patients who are in the center for up to 40 hours per week. Hopebridge students are able to learn more about ASD and ABA therapy to determine if this is a population they’d like to better serve in the future.
“It’s so rare to get this condensed of an introduction to autism. In most other pediatric settings, you’ll have some exposure to children with autism, but this was a huge crash course on so many elements of the spectrum I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. Our students gain the skills here, and even if they don’t stay with us long-term – which we hope they do! – they can pull from the skill sets they acquired here, wherever they end up,” said Leah Rischar, COTA, who has worked for Hopebridge the past three years since she served our patients as a student.
2. Interdisciplinary, collaborative model
When students are placed in one of our centers, they have the added benefit of learning about a range of disciplines, in addition to their own fields of choice. Our 360 Care model combines various autism services, giving our students a taste of what it’s like to closely collaborate with clinicians on topics that go beyond their typical studies, plus use their own knowledge in fresh, new ways to meet goals for their patients. Occupational therapy and speech therapy students and professionals don’t naturally collaborate as closely in other settings, which helps Hopebridge stand apart from other placements.
“If you have a choice of where to serve your internship, look somewhere you can find a community. I chose to work at Hopebridge mainly because of my conversation with Boyd about the team before I started. You can learn almost anywhere, but if you don’t feel valued while you’re there, it’s probably not where you want to end up, even if it’s good on paper,” said Mikaela Hall, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) and former student with Hopebridge.
3. Multiple layers of supervision
“I really appreciated how Boyd and the other therapists helped me the first couple weeks. It was so easy to come into their team and interact with them. They always asked what I needed and I never felt uncomfortable asking questions. It wasn’t just my supervisor looking out for me; I had support from the entire therapy team,” said Mikaela.
4. Ability to develop a range of skills
Fieldwork hours at Hopebridge are not limited to one type of treatment or patient. Every day is different in our centers and children have challenges and abilities across a spectrum, so speech and occupational therapy students will be able to try their hand at many aspects of treatment. Those participating in our program will build upon their skill sets through experience with evaluations, documentation, telehealth sessions, clinical reasoning and by applying what they learn in school to real-life scenarios.
“Within our industries of occupational therapy and speech therapy, there are so many settings in which we could work. Sometimes students know where they want to be and their choice of fieldwork is purposeful. Other times, students want their clinical experience to be diverse to give them a robust idea of where their skill can best be used in the future. It’s a great chance to figure out what you want to do for your career, and I’m glad I was placed with Hopebridge along the way,” said Leah.
5. Program flexibility and personalization
Hopebridge offers a range of opportunities for fellowships, clinical rotations, observation hours, dissertations and thesis work. From part-time options and shorter rotations, to full-time externships up to 40 hours per week, we can give as much hands-on experience as the education program requires. Plus, each student can work with their supervisor to determine the appropriate caseload that best matches their education requirements and professional goals.
“During the first week, I shadowed my supervisor to see all her kids. After that, she told me it was up to me—did I want to take over the caseload, continue to shadow, or learn through a combination of the two? She allowed me to choose. I’m a go-getter, so I took over her caseload, but she was with me every step of the way. She provided hands-on supervision and feedback, yet still encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. Having this opportunity made my current role ten times easier. Because of her, I already know how to manage my time and roll with everyday challenges. She taught me how to use my environment to meet our goals, versus strictly following a lesson plan,” said Mikaela.
6. Intimate clinic setting with a large network of opportunities
Students tell us the community is one of the biggest benefits of doing their clinical rotations at Hopebridge. The center atmosphere allows students to create relationships with other therapists and children in the center, but the size of Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers as a whole broadens that effect. Hopebridge’s large national network creates a magnitude of placement options for students around the country, as well as opportunities to advance their careers after graduation. Many of our students find their passion while serving as Hopebridge Heroes in our centers and ultimately choose to continue to grow with us, too. We love to see our students get excited about their experience at Hopebridge, and we’re equally as excited to have them stay with us long-term!
“Networking is huge. I stress this to every student as they come through here. Each place they end up at becomes part of their network. They meet someone on the job, and then that person they connect with also has a network of their own. It’s multiplied by each person they meet. With so many disciplines and so many centers within the Hopebridge space, we have a ton of resources at our fingertips. When students become part of our program, they are able to tap into that vast network,” said Boyd.
Are you interested in pediatric therapy or a peek into the autism world? If you are interested in getting a fresh take on occupational therapy or speech therapy in a fast-paced, challenging, creative and sensory-rich environment during your externship, Hopebridge might be a good fit for you.
To join the Hopebridge team while you’re in school, reach out to us through our Fieldwork Contact Form and talk to your school about our program. If we don’t already partner with your school for fieldwork opportunities, we can connect with them to develop a plan to get you in the door.
Or, are you wrapping up your rotations to graduate and ready to take your boards? Whether a COTA, Registered Occupational Therapist (OTR), clinical fellow, SLP, or you’re searching for a role in ABA therapy or psychology, check out the open positions in our autism therapy centers throughout the United States to take the next step in your career.
*Informed consent was obtained from the participants in this article. This information should not be captured and reused without express permission from Hopebridge, LLC.