Student mentors children in hospital over summer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Katie Haskins, a Penn State College of Education junior studying rehabilitation and human services, got a new perspective on children thanks to her internship at Cumberland Hospital last summer. Not only did she become an integral part of the success of children in occupational therapy, but she was also presented with invaluable lessons that she carries with her to unexpected areas of her life.

Unaware of the gravity of the experience awaiting her, Haskins accepted an internship with Cumberland Hospital, working directly with children of all ages in occupational therapy. From day one, staff and patients welcomed her as a critical member of the community. She played games with the children and taught them the motor skills, social living skills and behavioral skills necessary to cope with whatever physical, mental or developmental conditions they may be facing.

“My job was to help the occupational therapist throughout the summer,” said Haskins, “but more importantly (my job was to) become a mentor to these children.”

Growing up with an older brother with Down syndrome prepared her with the compassion and acceptance of people different than herself, but the experience at Cumberland Hospital unleashed Haskins’ previously unrecognized passion for special education.

One patient particularly impacted her experience at the hospital. The teenaged girl had been in a crippling car accident, paralyzing her and reducing her cognitive abilities to that of a 5-year-old. The girl was facing the possibility of a lifetime in a wheelchair, and Haskins witnessed her walk for the first time in eight months. Haskins helped alter the patient’s life as she continued to work with her on balance and cognitive skills.

“Watching her regain skills and remember that she can do the things a 16-year-old girl can do was an amazing feeling to share,” Haskins said.

Supporting the patients through their conditions allowed Haskins to see children in a new light. After working so closely with the kindhearted children in the hospital, she now believes children have the capacity to become whomever they wish to be with the guidance and support of the adults in their lives.

“Many of the kids at Cumberland do not have all the opportunities that I do, or families that love them the way that mine does,” said Haskins.

Haskins is now inspired to become more involved in the College of Education and bring her newfound patience, empathy and knowledge to her future career.

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Last Updated October 23, 2013