3rd Quarter, 2005
Minority Scholarship Winner
“After my graduation, I plan to bring my expertise and the most state-of-the-art services back to Hong Kong or Asia. I also want to utilize my background in Chinese culture and my Western knowledge and combine them to improve the models of intervention. To make good intervention accessible to a big population, I also have the vision of developing a service center that would provide various services for children and families. To this end, I have continued to endeavor. For example, I am pursuing a second degree in organizational studies (Master of Arts in Organizational Behavior) at my school. With knowledge and insights from both psychological and organizational training, I believe I can contribute to a better tomorrow for the children and families who need help in our society.”
A Portion of Ying’s Winning Essay:
My intention to become a professional clinical psychologist stems from my wish to serve children with autism and their families. I believe that the PsyD program will provide the knowledge and expertise I need to reach my goal.
The mission to serve children with autism and their families started with my own developmental history. When I was an infant, far less knowledge and services were available for children with developmental challenges than today. My mother found that I had significant language delay, social and behavior problems. Without support, she decided to home-educate me while striving to learn from psychological and educational theories. Throughout the years, her hard work and perseverance paid off–I began to learn independently and care about others. This exceptional experience has always driven me to repay the love and blessing I received by passing it on to other children and parents in need.
During my college years, as a speech therapist trainee, I started to meet and serve children with social, language and behavior problems. A lot of them were diagnosed with autism or autistic features. Moreover, my two-year volunteer experience in an autism parent resource center developed a deep interest in me to know these families, understand their problems and help to solve them.
After graduation from the university, I worked as a speech therapist in one of the largest special educational organizations in Hong Kong. There I gained extensive clinical experience including parent consultation and coaching, staff supervision, and individual/ group treatment with children. Meanwhile, the mission in me to serve them better compelled me to pay attention to innovative treatment approaches, such as Son-Rise (Kaufman, 1994) and the DIR or Floor Time model (Greenspan & Wieder, 1998), which opened my eyes to more comprehensive, psychological treatment strategies, and how to treat the family as a whole. Since there were no corresponding learning opportunities in Hong Kong, I paid to fly to Britain, the United States and Singapore to participate in the relevant courses.
As a ‘practical’ person, I immediately practiced what I learned by helping families set up their own home programs for their autistic children. I found that the more I learned, the more efficient and flexible I became in individualizing treatment. Therefore, other than the above approaches, I continued to borrow ideas from cognitive, psychotherapeutic and other therapy models to improve the understanding and program planning for my clients.
The benefits of these efforts are evident. For example, one of the autistic children whom I have worked intensely with has improved from a functionally nonverbal, severely mentally handicapped child, in one-and-a-half years’ time, to a spontaneously talkative child who was lately diagnosed to be only mildly mentally handicapped. Before treatment, he had absolutely no eye contact, he showed a resistance to change and numerous challenging behaviors such as spitting and hitting people. Now he is able to talk in sentences while looking at others directly, interact peacefully with strangers and even initiate playing a social game with his classmate.
Another student of mine used to receive special education, and showed an extreme reaction to multiple sensory stimuli and social interaction. Now after a year of treatment he has fit well into a mainstream educational setting and is seen as a sweet, communicative child with a strong interest in learning. There are also other children whom I have served that have become more socially active, verbal and confident in daily life.
In view of an enormous need for service, I have lately adopted a trainer-trainer model–where more time is spent on educating parents, teachers, therapists or volunteers with live demonstration, talks and individual counseling. My service settings also extend from government-subsidized educational organizations to community service centers and to private homes.
Some parents whom I have worked most closely with used to show distress and pity for themselves and their children. But now after applying a program that helps them understand and relate to their children, they have found pleasure and confidence in everyday living. Recognizing a personal growth from their experience they can heartily say that they are “thankful” for having their special-need children and even view their children as special gifts from heaven.
These experiences reveal to me the value of treating the child’s whole family. Services for promoting the psychological well-being of parents and trainers are especially necessary. Added to that, there has been an increasing demand for consultation and training to parents and school systems because of the problems in local enforcement of “Inclusive/ Integrated Education”. To accommodate these needs, however, the current services in Hong Kong are either insufficient or over-expensive. Thus my clients and I long for a local, non-profit-making autism center that will offer diverse and state-of-the-art professional services.
To help this dream come true we need more professionals who will endeavor to focus on this area with broad knowledge and expertise. As for myself, I plan to pursue a doctor degree in psychology to become a professional clinical psychologist who can bring a variety of effective treatment models “inexpensively” to our society. I believe the past experience has strengthened my motivation, broadened my knowledge, sharpened my area of focus, and polished my interpersonal skills to reach this goal.
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