Want to learn more about working with people with disabilities? Experts suggest these avenues:
Seek out mentors, teachers and peers with experience working with people who have disabilities. These are the people who can show you, from first-hand experience, the best ways of working with people with disabilities, says Sybille Ulrike, a fourth-year student working toward her PsyD at Alliant International University who is deaf.
Look for ways to meet people with disabilities. Gain exposure to people with disabilities, and hone your professional and personal skills by doing some of your training in an area where you have a better chance of working with them, such as in neuropsychology, rehabilitation or developmental psychology, advises Ulrike.
Students can also tap community disability groups, suggests Ulrike, by, for example, helping with community interventions or becoming involved in disability activism.
Work for changes to school curriculum. "Students who are interested in disability should push their graduate programs to teach about it," says Greg Taliaferro, PhD, a private practitioner who has cerebral palsy and a visual impairment.
If you find the work fulfilling, there are many ways to make working with people who have disabilities part of your career, says psychologist Tamar Heller, PhD, of the department of disability and human development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Many human service organizations specialize in disability, including rehabilitation hospitals, developmental disability agencies and mental health centers. There are also opportunities to work on disability policy issues in the government, notes Heller.
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