Sana Huda, Marcia GraggSana Huda explains her project to professor Marcia Gragg during a poster presentation Tuesday in the CAW Student Centre.

Psych students demonstrate benefits of community placements

A four-month practicum placement at the Summit Centre for Preschool Children with Autism may have changed the entire trajectory of psychology student Adam Libonati’s career.

“I was planning on going into talk therapy for children with anxiety and depression,” two challenges he faces personally, he says. “When I came into the Summit Centre, it opened my eyes to how wonderful these kids are.”

Libonati employed his education in behavioral modification to help a three-year-old client move from very limited play to a greater range of activities. Now he intends to specialize in treating children with autism.

“You see them always improving and it felt great to be a part of that,” Libonati says. “I learned I am capable of helping others in a meaningful way.”

He was one of almost 60 fourth-year students presenting posters documenting their placement experiences, Tuesday in the CAW Student Centre. The projects represented courses in “Community Orientation to Disability Studies” by professors Mary Harper and Shelagh Towson, “Practicum in Psychology” by Ted Vokes, and “Practicum in Developmental Psychology” by Marcia Gragg.

“Exhibiting their projects lets the students show off what they have done all year,” Dr. Gragg says. “It highlights what these students contribute to the community.”

Dr. Gragg’s 15 students alone put in a total of 1,400 hours of volunteer service to seven community agencies.

Sara Huda says her work, teaching cursive writing to an eight-year-old boy who showed little interest in schoolwork, confirmed her intention to pursue a career as a clinical therapist. She rewarded his progress with Monopoly money he could exchange for small prizes, and saw him become calmer over the course of the treatment.

“I learned how to communicate and work with clients in a professional environment,” she says. “It was very surprising and very rewarding to see how he looked up to me.”