237869By Natalie Saleh

Baylor graduate students are passionate about using their talents to serve others in their community. This passion is obvious in the graduate students who work at The Baylor Clinic for Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE), a program which provides assessments and therapy for children with cognitive and developmental disabilities. Baylor CARE therapists are all graduate students in the educational psychology program who are specializing in applied behavior analysis.

CARE therapists devote much of their time to helping clients improve communication, social, adaptive, and other life skills. The program serves children ranging from three to eighteen years old and from very low to very high-functioning. Therapists also work with parents to teach them new strategies to help their children.

“We don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes. But the things that we’re working on in the clinic and the research that goes on there, I hope is contributing in some way to being helpful in their everyday lives,” says Rachel Scalzo, CARE therapist and PhD student in educational psychology.

To ensure that CARE therapists are ready before they start therapy, they start out shadowing other therapists. Once they are assigned to work with a child, they also spend time getting to know the child and building trust before beginning formal therapy sessions. In addition, CARE therapists have plenty of help throughout their time working at the clinic, both from their peer therapists and from CARE Director, Dr. Tonya Davis and Behavioral and Educational Services Director Kristen Mainor.

“It really is just a big family of us who work there,” says Jayden Conte, CARE therapist and graduate student in educational psychology. “Tonya Davis and Kristen Mainor are always there to help you if you need anything at all. They’re very supportive, very knowledgeable, and very helpful.”

Though working with children with disabilities can be difficult at times, CARE therapists feel blessed for the rewarding opportunity to serve their clients and help them grow.

“One client never ever talked. It was a big deal if he even uttered a sound. Now he’s talking, talking, talking. It’s just really cool to see that progression,” says Jayden.

After graduation, Jayden plans on continuing to work at a clinic with disabled children, grateful for the invaluable experiences she has had with the CARE program.

Baylor CARE is always accepting donations to provide scholarships for needy families. If you are interested in donating, contact Tonya_Davis@baylor.edu. If you would like to read more about the great ways CARE is helping children with disabilities and their families click here.