Howdy all! This week was the first week of my internship at Lucas Gardens, a school focused on the education of children with special needs. So yeah, that is what this blog post is going to be about 🙂 Unfortunately I’m not allowed to take pictures of the kids so all of the pictures in this post are from the Lucas Gardens website, which you can find here if you’d like to read/find out more about the school.
On Monday, the second half of our semester began, which meant a harsh return to classes after a week long vacation to paradise. I am taking a Sports Management class and I honestly cannot tell you much about what that means. We just talk a lot about sports and different issues within the sporting world. It’s pretty interesting and I like it a lot. Well I mean as much as I can like a class. After finishing up class on Monday, I mentally and physically prepped myself for my first week of work.
Luckily enough, my friend Kaitlyn and I got assigned to the same internship which is super convenient in terms of transportation, knowing what to wear, and sharing stories. Otherwise I don’t really like her that much. Jk love you Kait!
Tuesday morning, we hopped on the bus to work and suddenly we were part of the real working world (except we’re not getting paid…). When we got to the school, we were given our timetables for our seven weeks there and directed towards the purple class which was where we would be spending our first day. Lucas Gardens is made up of a primary school and a secondary school so the ages of students range from kindergarten (adorably called kindies here) to year 12 (senior year). The purple class is a class of 15 and 16 year olds so we were thrown in with the big dogs right away. There are about 5 students in each class, accompanied by a teacher as well as a teacher’s aid who takes care of most of the dietary and sanitary needs of the kids. Their job is tough I’m not gunna lie. Fortunately, Kaitlyn and I have a little bit of an easier job. We mainly help the teacher with whatever they need during the day, whether that be feeding a student, gathering materials from around the room, fixing the malfunctioning technology, or assisting a student with the lesson. We even got to take the kids on an excursion to McDonald’s so that they could get out of the classroom, something that they don’t often get to do because almost all of them are in wheelchairs. The kids were so happy, it was adorable. I also have the opportunity to sit in and help with the physical therapy sessions of the students. Even though I have only gotten to go to one of these so far, I have already learned a lot and I am definitely looking forward to participating in more.
The rest of our week consisted of us going to a new classroom each day as we got to know the layout of the school, our coworkers, and the students better. I think I finally have all of the students’ names down (yay!) and I can honestly say that I love all of them already. Every member of the staff has been super welcoming and helpful, and they are all teaching me a lot about Australian society and life in general.
In addition to the amazing personalities of the staff and students, I have also been very impressed with the usage of technology throughout the school. Each classroom is equipped with a smart board, iPads, and other computers that the students are able to use for learning. The smart boards are especially cool because the students have learned how to touch the boards in order to play a song or produce other stimuli that is pleasing to them. That said, I have learned a lot of kids songs that are going to be eternally stuck in my head. Not that that’s unusual for me. I’m also learning a lot of sign language (Australian sign language, not American, yes they are different) because many of the kids are non-verbal and although most of them cannot sign themselves, they have come to understand the signs that the teachers use. It’s honestly so cool. Some of the students are also able to communicate through an app on the iPad where they can touch icons that represent what they wish to say and then the iPad says it out loud. It’s crazy how much technology has changed these kids’ lives.
As I said earlier, Lucas Gardens defines themselves as a school for “fragile students with intellectual and physical disabilities, some of whom also have sensory impairments and complex medical needs,” meaning that many of the children are very low functioning. Most of the students have epilepsy, resulting in various forms of cerebral palsy and/or autism spectrum disorders/other mental disorders. I decided to take this internship because I am strongly considering working with children with disabilities as a PT after I graduate. While I have interacted with children with disabilities before, this internship has already been an eye opening experience for me. Never before have I been present as someone has had a minor seizure, been so heartbroken as I heard the backstories of children that I have become insanely attached to within this short amount of time, or been so elated to see a student accomplish something as mundane as following an object with his eyes or making a choice between two options. I have never felt like my singing of a song about jellyfish on a rock has been so important or that my simple smiles could bring so much joy to the face of a child that is all too often filled with despair. There has not been a day where I have come home not feeling physically and emotionally drained but also so full of happiness and hope for these children. And this is just week one. I really cannot wait for the next six weeks of my internship at Lucas Gardens so that I can continue to create a relationship with the students and learn more about working with children with disabilities, both as a physical therapist and a person.
My awesome first week at work was topped off this weekend with a professional soccer game and a trip to the beach. My Sports Management class took us on a field trip to the Sydney FC vs. the Western Sydney Wanderers soccer game so that we would be able to experience the true culture of Australian sport. The game was intense and Sydney FC ended up coming back for a 3-2 victory, but the real spectacle was the fans. First of all, the visiting team, Western Sydney, occupied about half the stadium and had a fan section that paralleled that of Sydney FC. And quite the fans they were. Both fan sections were insanely loud throughout the entire game, no joke. There was never a quiet moment. All of the fans were in sync with their cheers and the fan section was just a huge party the whole time.
Sorry about the obnoxious woman at the end that rudely told us to get out of our seats
The other team even set the field on fire at the beginning of the game!
The fans were just straight up insane. American sports do not compare to this even in the slightest.
Today, Sunday, we took a trip to Manly beach and it was beautiful. I’m honestly getting way too used to this beach lifestyle and I am probably going to go into a deep depression when I come back to the States and it is the dead of winter and there’s not a beach in sight. I’m crying just thinking about it.
Well that about does it for this week! I’ll leave you with this inspirational insight for a time when you might be feeling down: Whenever you feel sad, just remember that there are billions of cells in your body and all they care about are you!
Haha wow I’m weird.
Also have a look at Ruthie’s blog, it’s amazing!!