Internship Spotlight: Morgan Smith, Special Education
Morgan Smith has been working as a Direct Care Professional since 2021. The relationships she formed with her residents with disabilities led her to do an ACR internship focused on deep pressure stimulation via weighted blanket.
Attended: University of Minnesota
Major: Developmental Psychology and Neuroscience.
Career Path: Accepted to The University of Minnesota’s masters of special education program with an emphasis on behavior analysis!
"I found out about ACR through some friends and also from flyers around the University of Minnesota. My general impressions of the company were that they really care about all their residents and their staff and make you feel very welcome.
I chose to do an internship with one of my residents at the house I work at to better his quality of life. ACR’s internship program challenges you to be independent throughout your internship while also getting help from a mentor making the whole process feel special to you and your topic.
Coming Alongside the Resident
I chose to do an internship looking at deep pressure stimulation (using a weighted blanket) and its effects on decreasing episodes of anxiety and challenging behaviors. I started out planning the process I was going to go through and then started implementing it with my resident. Staff at the house and myself followed a detailed process of acclimating him to the weighted blanket. We offered the blanket twice a day to acclimatize him to this change.
After the month-long acclimation period we already saw a decrease in anxiety and challenging behaviors, so we added using the blanket during periods of anxiety exhibited by the resident along with using the blanket twice a day during calm times. This period of using it during anxious times went on throughout two months. During these three months, with the help of other staff, I collected data on when the blanket was used and his daily behaviors. We saw a major decrease in self-injurious and aggressive behaviors during this time of adding the weighted blanket into his daily routine. After my internship was over, I created a flowchart for the house so that newer staff can see when they can and should use his weighted blanket to help him during periods where he may be upset or anxious.
The biggest challenge I faced throughout my internship was the change in routine for staff, since this was something new that was added it was easy for staff to forget to offer his blanket or chart the use. This was easily overcome through communication and persistence!
The biggest skill I gained throughout my internship was communication skills. Throughout this process you are required to talk to many different people and have different meetings. Communication is essential through the internship process and is a skill of mine that really grew throughout this process.
My main takeaway from my internship is that advocating, even for what seems like a small change, is essential and can make a huge difference in someone's life, especially for those who are not able to advocate for themselves. If people were considering an internship, I would say just do it! If you have an idea in mind for an internship, go for it. It may seem scary or like a long process, but the internship team and your mentor make this process so smooth and are there for you every step of the way. Your idea may make a huge difference for those involved!"