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Letter from a Caregiver: “Losing Myself in Service”

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Dear Reader,
 
There is so much beauty in learning, as I have always found it to be a transformative process. Knowledge has enabled and empowered me, over and over again, to reinvent my perception of the world. This is not always a comfortable experience as I, just like many others, become nestled in the familiar ways of knowing and doing. However, broadening my awareness though work and life experience has helped to formulate my personal values, which, in turn, have shaped the course of my life journey.
 
There is a young man whom I have been working with as an intensive individualized support services (IISS) provider, who has a smile that could light up any room, the most contagious laugh, an insatiable appetite for bacon, and an undying love for a little, furry, red monster named “Elmo”. His name is Joe, and I had the pleasure of meeting him almost 5 years ago when I started working for a local autism waiver agency. To be quite honest, I had worked with special needs population  before but did not exactly have a strong grasp on autism when I accepted the job. What I did know for sure was that I had a passion for psychology, working with people in trying circumstances, and that I yearned for challenging experiences. Though Joe has many strong qualities, he has his share of struggles as well. He is unable to speak intelligibly, write, read, or take care of himself without constant hands-on support. Because he is unable to adequately communicate his needs to others, he becomes incredibly frustrated and begins to lash out in fits of aggression towards himself and those around him. Though it can be highly stressful, at times, when dealing with an individual who lacks receptive and expressive language skills, I have found my dedication to his progress to be unwavering. I see incredible potential in him, but in order for Joe to effectively learn new skills, I need to constantly work on improving my skill set as well.
 
Though I am interested in various fields of study, I would like to gain more specific insight into the field of psychology. My ultimate goal is to attain a Masters degree in counseling psychology and then become a licensed clinical professional counselor. This would grant me the knowledge, credentials, and skills to reach out to a broader range of children with a variety of unique minds. I have a particularly strong interest in behavioral psychology and have been lucky enough to learn and practice applied behavioral analysis as part of my job. My experience has opened my eyes to the realities of applying scientific research in a real life scenario, and for this, I am incredibly thankful.
 
In studying psychology, thus far, I have become a more open-minded and compassionate person, understanding that what I might perceive to be true on the surface about an individual rarely is. Mohandas Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” In furthering my education, I will be empowered to more effectively “lose [myself]”, and will hopefully earn the credibility and respect to influence others to follow suit.
 

Warm regards,

“Lost” (in the best sense of the word)

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