Interning with Karlyn Emile at the Special Olympics Florida Healthy Community has been my first experience working with individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD). At first I did not know what to expect, but I knew it would be a rewarding experience.
I have taken part in teaching weekly nutrition classes as well as social awareness classes on-site at the Hollywood location. I also represented Special Olympics Florida in the community at an event called Pines Night Out. Similarly, I helped to formulate interactive nutrition questions to be used by the coaches who are working with the athletes out in the field.
The fact that there is an overwhelming need for nutrition awareness in this population makes the progress of these students that much more rewarding. After familiarizing myself with the screening results and the prevalence of obesity in this population, I wanted to help make a difference. I really love how kind the students are, they are always happy to see the nutrition interns; they immediately learn our names. Shortly after I had begun interning, during a fire drill, one student called out my name from across the parking lot “Hi Holli!” It feels great that the students are always ready to learn and so happy to see us.
My advice for planning to work with the IDD population:
You may experience working with students with varying degrees of intellectual functioning, so have patience and be kind! Plan lessons and main takeaway messages beforehand, and try not to get frustrated if your message is not getting across right away. Work one-on-one with students after presentations or lectures; reinforce the most poignant points. Ask questions before, during, and after sessions–encourage participation. Try to use words with less than 3 syllables to help facilitate learning. Above all, enjoy your time working and teaching individuals with IDD; they are the most appreciative and loving people that you will come across.
You can find out more about me at my blog-The South Florida Sage