Student view:

Carolyn Springer: Interning Down Under

July 31, 2019

Carolyn Springer is a senior majoring in kinesiology in the College of Education.

I recently completed an internship in Sydney, Australia, which has taught me so much about my desired career. The skills I have learned here can transfer back home as I start my graduate school applications for occupational therapy school.

My KINternship in Australia was with Early Ed, an organization in Sydney that provides early intervention to children with disabilities and developmental delays. As an intern, I assisted in all group sessions and some individual sessions, created visual aids, scored sensory processing assessments and gathered further research on sensory diets and the importance of early intervention itself. These past two months, I have been able to see differences in health care systems, cultures and my own desired career as an occupational therapist for young ones with disabilities. 

Australia has a universal health care system — something that is foreign to us in America. Medical expenses for all Australian citizens are covered by the tax revenue produced by those who make over $80,000 a year. They do not have to pay for ambulance rides, doctor’s appointments or hospital visits out of pocket. Along with that, there are organizations such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is in place to fund the majority of government programs focused on those with disabilities.

We do not have anything equivalent to NDIS in the U.S. Once approved, parents have the ability to choose any organization they see fit to best support their child.

In Australia, family-centered practice is a large focus in this industry. Therapists are supporting the entire family by including siblings in sessions and providing parents with strategies to further support their child at home and in community settings. 

The fields of early intervention and occupational therapy are more family focused and consider the whole child. In Australia, a pediatrician is more likely to recommend OT and speech therapy to a child with a delay rather than physical therapy, which is more common in the U.S. To become an occupational therapist or speech pathologist in Australia, only a four-year undergraduate degree is required. In the U.S., these professions require graduate school. 

I have acquired experience with numerous different types of disabilities of varying degrees, while engaging with many unique teaching styles. The amazing Early Ed staff members have been incredible role models. Aside from the work experience, I also had the weekends to explore what Sydney has to offer. I was able to immerse myself in Australian culture and truly live like an Aussie!