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Marcus Autism Center Interns

Merrill Wood, right, and Matthew Klein gained valuable experience as summer interns at the Marcus Autism Center.

Merrill Wood has long known that she wanted to work with those who needed help most, so when an opportunity presented itself to intern at the nationally recognized Marcus Autism Center, she jumped at the chance.

Working in the severe behavioral unit of the renowned Atlanta facility, the senior psychology major gained valuable experience conducting therapy sessions, gathering data and working one-on-one with children facing a wide range of issues that might prevent them from accessing public school and other normal social experiences. Such issues might have been intimidating to some, but Wood wasn’t fazed.

“When we were having a therapy session and the kids were smiling and we were smiling, we knew we communicated with them,” she said. “That was one of the best moments.”

Wood is one of a growing number of students taking advantage of Berry’s budding collaboration with the Marcus Autism Center, which is bearing fruit not only in meaningful internship experiences but also enhanced career opportunities.

Recently, a new four-course sequence jointly developed by Berry psychology faculty and the Marcus staff gained approval by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. As a result, students who complete the new course sequence and a set number of clinical hours can pursue board certification as assistant behavior analysts (BCaBA) upon graduation.

“This opportunity opened up because there’s a need,” explained Dr. Michelle Haney, professor and department chair of psychology, who recruited Dr. Allison Doerr to Berry to help develop the new program. “There’s a serious lack of clinicians with this training in our community.”

A related track within Berry’s Master of Education program is also being discussed.

Reporting by student writer Carey Blankenship

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