If you’re studying occupational therapy, physiotherapy, or disability support, then a Special Needs Care internship can help you gain valuable career insight and experience. Kayla Myott shares details about her time abroad as an intern in Peru, including details about her daily routine, the challenges she faced, and her advice for having an enjoyable and successful internship.
Why did you choose this internship program?
My long-term goals are to be an Occupational Therapist and work with kids with Autism and learning disabilities. Working with the kids to help develop and improve their fine and gross motor skills will help them to succeed in life, to the best of their ability – and it’s a dream and goal of mine to help make this happen! During this Special Needs Care internship in Cusco, Peru, I worked with individuals between the ages of 5 and 21, who have Autism, learning disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, and Dyspraxia. The therapy and activities I learned can be used for my future, so that I can help others to improve their social and educational skills.
What was your role like as a Special Needs Care intern?
The role at my placement was to work with children who experience both mental and physical disabilities, ranging from a low level of disability to extreme. As an intern, I assisted with playing games, creating educational activities using flash cards, and providing personal care and attention for each child. I would also work alongside the physiotherapist, to assist with muscle stretching, joint manipulation and mobilization.
Each day we would begin with getting the children from breakfast and bringing them into the physiotherapy room. This is where each intern would work with one child at a time, by performing stretches and working on their range of motions. Most of the kids are physically unable to walk/move on their own. However, each day they progressed, due to the stretching and range of motion that we would perform on them. These exercises help to keep their blood flowing, which loosens up their muscles, to enable them to stretch more.
What kind of things did you learn from the internship?
I learned that with the more exercise and therapy sessions each child has, the quicker they will improve. Due to the lack of therapists in the placement, the children are unable to improve as fast as they normally could before, which enables interns to help and make a valuable difference. I learned about many different disorders and neurological functions that each of the children had, and how to co-treat them.
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
The moment I arrived in Cusco I had an overwhelming amount of feelings. I felt scared, anxious, excited, nervous, sad… basically every emotion you can experience all put together, and it was not comforting! I didn’t know any Spanish, so it was difficult on the first day. It challenged me enough to buy a Spanish book and I brought it with me every day to my placement, so I could try and learn with them, as well as teaching them some English, which made the situation more fun and educational. Over time, my expectations changed and I was able to communicate with the therapist and children better than I initially thought would be possible. As each day went by, it got much easier and more fun to work with them. I learned more Spanish and was able to play more games with the kids, as well as being able to talk to the therapist and teach her more English.
What were your highlights of the experience?
My favorite memory would be teaching one of the kids who was 6 years old with learning disabilities, a few words in English. Not many, but just a handful such as: please, thank you, cat, dog, and love. It was so much fun seeing how excited he was that he knew part of another language. I feel more empowered to be successful in my field because I know that within two weeks I made a small difference with these children, and that makes me realize that when I move into a career as an Occupational Therapist, I will be able to change many more lives. I accomplished my goals by going out of my way to try and learn more about the children and their disabilities. This included learning about the culture of the Peruvians, respecting the Sisters who work at the placement by asking questions, and going above and beyond to make sure I completed the tasks that needed to be done.
What advice would you give to others who are considering an internship?
Some advice to myself if I were to do this again is not to be worried, or think the worse of a situation. I would tell others to go in with an open mind, and to stay positive. I would also tell others to not have their expectations set very high because working with these kids can be saddening, but showing them love and support is all they need. People with disabilities need time and care to help them improve and stay healthy, so it’s important that interns do their very best with the amount of activities and therapy options that are available. Remain patient with each child and let them improve within the time that they need.
I highly recommend the Special Needs Care home that I worked at for any interns interested in this type of work. The kids are amazing and they love that you want to help them and hang out with them. It really is an amazing experience!
Interested in making your own internship experience a reality?
Internship opportunities are flexible and there’s something for everyone. Learn more about internships in Peru, or browse other program destinations around the world. It can be challenging to take the first step, but once that decision has been made, the experience only gets better!
Apply online first. The application process is non-obligatory and free.
After applying, you’ll receive more details on how to confirm your internship placement.
To confirm, you’ll register online after your application has been accepted. This means taking care of the US$299 Registration Fee, which enables us to provide services and pre-departure support. Internship fees can be reviewed online.
Once you’re registered, the adventure begins and you’ll be guided every step of the way.