Dietetics and Nutrition Internship Experiences through Special Olympics Florida: My Reflections

Lily 3

Guest Editor: Liliana Gonzalez, MS, Dietetics and Nutrition, Florida International University

Professional experience:

It has been a remarkable experience working with individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) at Special Olympics of South Florida. When assigned to complete my community rotation with Dr. Emile at SOFLHC, I thought about the possible challenges that I would be faced with due to my lack of experience with this population. However, it has been more than a positive experience for me as a person and has changed me in so many ways.

Individuals with IDD have disorders that are present at birth that affect the course of their development in terms of their intellectual, physical, and/or emotional development. Many of them lack the ability to learn, reason, solve problems, and acquire the necessary social and life skills for them to function daily. Proper nutrition is very important in this population especially because of their tendency of being overweight and having little knowledge of good nutrition. Our computer based nutrition lessons has given me the skills to develop nutrition education material and deliver valuable information to these students.


Memorable stories and expert advice:

Throughout my time here, I’ve had many memorable moments. One of them being our question and answer review at the beginning of each class. It was remarkable to see one of the students remember the lesson discussed from the past week and answer each and every question correctly!!! That made me feel as a valuable tool to them as far as teaching them something meaningful. Another memorable moment was hearing them talk about the healthy options they have made throughout the week. It was great to know they were applying what they have learned.

My expert advice when working with the IDD population is to never underestimate them. They are more capable than what you think! Also, keep in mind that they have different levels of comprehending information so it’s important to consider this when developing the lessons. Also, food models, handouts, along with computer nutrition games, aid in reinforcing the lesson taught and helps them to remember the information. Overall, working with individuals with IDD has been an invaluable experience that has taught me so much about them and about myself! I highly recommend working with this population. It will positively change your life!


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