Magazine Feature / People

Intern works in groundbreaking sensory therapy center

In the span of an hour, senior psychology major Jenny Oertell watched an inconsolable autistic boy transform after listening to Mozart through special headphones and playing in a gym where a variety of textures, activities and colors were at his disposal. 

As an intern at the Sensory Therapies and Research (STAR) Center Oertell works at the forefront of a new treatment for children and adults with learning, developmental and behavioral difficulties. The center is the first in the U.S. to offer the treatment.

The treatment combines listening therapy and occupational therapy and allows patients to overcome some symptoms by helping their brains find new pathways for processing reactions to stimulation. Along with autism, STAR treats attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; learning, motor and auditory processing difficulties; and sensory processing disorder. 

Because STAR opened only recently, it was unable to offer a paid internship. To make the experience possible, Oertell applied for a grant through the Marsico Internship Initiative, which provided $2,500 for the summer. 

Oertell heard about the internship through her adviser, psychology Associate Professor Danny McIntosh. She was one of 36 undergraduates to receive a grant from the Marsico Internship Initiative this summer. 

Marsico Internship Coordinator Jaymie Hoffman says that by alleviating financial pressure, the grants allow students to have a richer internship experience. Oertell says without the grant, she wouldn’t have been able spend as much time at the center as she wanted.

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