by Jack Lewis, MEd
Associate Program Manager, Aspire Works
Aspire’s long-running Aspire Works Internship Program connects employer partners with neurodiverse participants to offer workplace learning and resume building opportunities. Massachusetts General Hospital’s Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging pharmacist, Anne Siewko, is managing an Aspire intern this summer for the first time. Below is Jack's interview with Anne and her team.
Had you previously considered hosting a neurodivergent intern? What concerns did you have before the internship began?
It has been great having the Aspire intern with our lab, I think it has been a great learning experience for him. I don't believe the lab knew that it was an option to host a neurodivergent intern before being connected. Before the internship began, I think my biggest concern was not knowing if the amount of information we had to share, or the fast and chaotic environment would be overwhelming; it's easy for experienced lab team members to become overwhelmed when problems arise.
What do you wish other employers knew about neurodivergent interns?
I think it is especially important to have an open line of communication between your intern and a third party, if necessary, to help your intern make the most of their time if it is limited. Additionally, neurodivergent interns provide a special set of skills not commonly found in those who are neurotypical. These skills can include attention to detail, punctuality, and creative problem solving.
What are some key highlights you’ve seen your intern bring to your team?
Our intern has helped all of us slow down and gain a deeper understanding of the work that we do. He asks many questions that, if we don't have the answer for him right away, we search to answer his questions. He has helped us learn how to better explain our daily GMP processes and he has brought valuable SOP insights to us on how to better rewrite our SOPs so an outsider looking in is able to easily understand our processes. Our intern also exudes confidence and willingness to learn no matter how simple the task.
What advice would you give to other interns?
Don’t be afraid to ask more questions and ask for more time. There’s nothing wrong with taking additional time to fully understand a topic or task. We all feel overwhelmed and nervous with new tasks, and if your employer is aware of how you’re feeling, they are better able to assist and create a calm work environment.
What advice would you give to employers looking to host a neurodivergent intern?
Most importantly, have patience. I think it would be beneficial for any employer interested in hosting a neurodivergent intern to be able to sit down and talk through any limitations or functionality with the intern. This would help create a structured environment where the intern feels comfortable with day-to-day activities and ultimately will lead to overall success; hosting a neurodivergent intern is a learning experience for all parties involved.