My name is Jordan Waites. I am a Junior in the traditional BSN program. I am an active member of Emory Global Health Nursing Association, Global Medical Missions Alliance, Emory Student Nurses Association, and BUNDLE scholar. I have always enjoyed aiding underserved populations through various volunteer opportunities. I have served in rural areas of New Mexico, Alaska, and Peru. Additionally, I have volunteered at Mommy & Me Family Literacy Program with Friends of Refugees in Clarkston, Georgia. After observing the needs of these populations, my long-term goal is to provide compassionate patient care in the mission field. I am grateful for the opportunities provided by Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing because volunteer work is a true passion of mine. When I found out about an opportunity to volunteer at a weekend camp for families with high-functioning children on the autism spectrum, I felt led to offer my time. I personally felt passionately about this opportunity because I have an adult brother who struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome. I have witnessed society’s negative attitude towards my brother. He is a happy, unsuspecting young man who wants to be accepted. I realize the importance of unconditional love, compassion, and the need for positive collaboration between families and counselors.
As a volunteer “Family Pal,” my task during the weekend camp was to assist families with activities. This allowed me to work very closely with children on the spectrum as well as their family members. As I was exposed to various families, I noticed that although many of the children were on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, they were all unique. Each of them had different struggles and concerns. Many could verbally communicate, whereas some only used 2-3 word sentences. Some could implement problem-solving, however, others experienced anxiety during activity. Throughout the weekend, I heard the quote, “When you meet one child with autism, you only meet ONE child with autism,” and I could not agree more with the statement. The struggles of one child could be another’s strength and vice versa. I learned through my camp experience that children and adults on the autism spectrum require personalized care. I believe that this knowledge is vital to understand as children and adults continue to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
I could not be happier that I took advantage of the opportunity that was provided to me by the School of Nursing. I am sure that many of the families who attended are very pleased that they were given the opportunity as well. On the final day of camp, a mother shared with me that her daughter recently had trouble with peers at school. The child would pull her hair out due to frustration and anxiety and children at school would question and mock her. The mother explained to me that camp was an opportunity for her daughter to be around other children who may struggle with the same difficulties. She expressed that the weekend camp was a safe place for her child to triumph over her struggles. In a similar way, volunteering at a weekend camp was a wonderful opportunity for me to step back from the stress of exams and deadlines in nursing school. It was a unique experience that enabled me to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Individuals with disabilities often are stigmatized, encountering not only physical barriers in daily
Individuals with disabilities often are stigmatized, encountering not only physical barriers in daily life but also emotional barriers. Loved ones cannot always protect them from subtle forms of discrimination and prejudice. School-age children with disabilities often have negative school experiences related to their disability. I understand the support families need and the importance of empathetic care. As a nurse, I look forward to providing support and helping families create a positive environment, focusing on their child’s aspirations instead of their limitations.