Community Blog

Pharmacies’ Time to Mitigate Opioid Epidemic’s Effect on Children is Long Overdue

Written by Lily McIntyre, Lisvette Batista, Julian Balkcom, Ilona Eaton, Lily Kurtz, Michelle Liu, Lily McIntyre, and Olivia Smith

Approximately 8,986 children and adolescents died from opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2016, and these numbers are growing (Devitt). Opioid strength has increased immensely in recent years in drugs such as codeine and methadone, yet pharmacies still sell these opioids without visibly displaying child-safe cabinet locks. Well-known pharmacies like CVS and Rite-Aid take a controversial stance against tobacco products by not selling them, yet these same pharmacies won’t stand for the safety of young children by visibly selling these locks.

More and more children accidentally ingest medication partly because prescription bottles are “child-resistant,” which means that “the packaging meets a standard that requires it to be significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open within a reasonable time, and not difficult for normal adults to use properly” (Safe Kids Worldwide). However, resistant packaging is insufficient, as a recent study found that children aged three to five could open child-resistant bottles in seconds (Safe Kids Worldwide). According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines, a package is deemed “child-resistant” as long as 80% of children are unable to open the package in 5 minutes (Fitzwater). Therefore, a package labeled “child-resistant” can still be opened by about 20% of children.

In addition to the ineffectiveness of child-resistant bottles, parents are not implementing safe storage practices. In a study conducted with 681 households, in which a guardian using prescription opioids lived with children under seven, only 32.6% of adults self-reported using safe storage practices (McDonald et al).  Some parents falsely assume that their young children know to stay away from prescription medicine; as a result, one third of parents believe that safely storing their drugs does not matter as long as their children are supervised (Safe Kids Worldwide). Cabinet locks provide a much safer solution: they require a lock combination or a key to open, making it more difficult for a child to access prescriptions.

How can parents lock up opioids when there are no drawer locks being openly sold at the counter of pharmacies? Massachusetts state law requires pharmacies to display a sign near the counter telling customers that locks are sold; however, the signs only need to be four by five inches in size (Massachusetts). Because of the signs’ diminutive size, individuals are virtually unaware that these locks are available in their local pharmacies.

Pharmacies must offer simple safety options for parents, guardians, and all prescription users, especially given that prior testing has proven that “child-resistant” bottles are not effective enough to keep children safe from accidental ingestion. Moving forward, pharmacies must sell child safety locks at a visible location at the counter. While education about safe storage of opioids is important, it is insufficient without making these locks accessible to the public. Pharmacies can take simple measures to save many innocent children. The time for pharmacies to mitigate their effects of the opioid crisis is long overdue. Our children’s lives are at stake.


References

Devitt, Michael. “New Research Finds Rise in Pediatric Deaths From Opioids.” American Academy of Family Physicians. 18 Jan. 2019, https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20190118pedopioids.html

Fitzwater, Travis. “Child-Resistant Is Not Child-Proof.” The Missouri Pharmacy Blog, 14 Oct. 2009, http://www.thepharmacyblog.com/child-resistant-is-not-child-proof/.

“Massachusetts Legislature Homepage.” The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, malegislature.gov/. https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXV/Chapter94C/Section21B

McDonald, Eileen M., et al. “Safe Storage of Opioid Pain Relievers Among Adults Living in Households With Children.” American Academy of Pediatrics, vol. 139, no. 3, Mar. 2017, p. e20162161. pediatrics.aappublications.org, doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2161.

Safe Kids Worldwide. “Safe Medicine Storage: Recent Trends and Insights for Families and Health Educators.” 2018. PDF File. https://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/safe_medicine_storage-march_2018.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Pharmacists: On The Front Lines. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/pharmacists_brochure-a.pdf


This blog was written by Lily McIntyre, Lisvette Batista, Julian Balkcom, Ilona Eaton, Lily Kurtz, Michelle Liu, Lily McIntyre, and Olivia Smith; they were students last year in a CSHD course, Physical and Mental Health in Childhood.
Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight: Russell Babcock

Throughout the school year, our Outreach Team highlights alumni of Eliot-Pearson who are excelling in their professional careers post-Tufts while continuing to maintain and spread the department’s mission.

This month, Outreach Coordinator Libby Hunt interviewed former Master’s student Russell Babcock about his time at E-P, his career trajectory, and his current role as the Head of Talent Development at StepStone Group in NYC.

Name: Russell Babcock

Graduation Year: 1995

Program/Track: Master’s Program; Applied track

Academic Advisor: Professor Charna Levine


LH: What did you do for your internship on the Applied track?

RB: I completed my community field placement and internship at an early childcare center in Cambridge. My responsibilities included assisting the Director with the day-to-day operations and working with the teachers to provide a safe, engaging, and welcoming environment for all children and families. I also utilized my child study knowledge and experience to collaborate with the teachers to plan lessons and design curriculum, set up learning /dramatic play areas, and help them to recognize teachable moments.

LH: What was your favorite course at E-P?

RB: This is a difficult question, one akin to asking a parent, “Which child is your favorite?” While my favorite course was the Seminar in Early Education, taught by Professor Sylvia Feinburg, other courses that I especially enjoyed and learned a great deal were: Culture and Learning: Issues for Multicultural Education taught by Professor Jayanthi Mistry & Advanced Personal and Social Development taught by Professor George Scarlett.

LH: How did your time at E-P influence your personal growth and the trajectory of your career?

RB: Immensely. I started my graduate studies 4 years after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, and working at an amazing non-public school in Oakland, CA, Lincoln Child Center.

My two memorable years at Tufts, which included incredible learning experiences as a GTA in Tufts Educational Day Care Center (TEDCC), have strengthened my appreciation for the importance of a high quality, early childhood education. My time at E-P increased my awareness of the use of collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to understand and address inequities in schools and communicates as well as the importance of technology to help make learning more fun, inspiring, and meaningful.

The ability to integrate coursework from E-P and what I have learned through various certification programs has allowed me to have a non-traditional, interesting, and fun career path. My diverse skill set and ability to utilize what I learned in my psychology and applied child development courses has provided me with the opportunity to work in cities across and outside of the US, including Athens, Dublin, London, San Diego, and Tokyo.

My career post E-P includes working in the Education, Pharma, Insurance, and Finance industries. I have worked in small, private companies and well as large, global companies. One constant in my career trajectory is applying what I learned at E-P, whether during my time in the classroom learning alongside my fellow students, meeting with professors and TAs during office hours, observing children and teachers at the Children’s School, or working alongside Master teachers at TEDCC.

My ability to and appreciation for the uniqueness of every child and adult helped me to obtain my latest job. Interestingly, one of the firm’s founders shared that he was especially intrigued by my M.A. in Applied Child Development from Tufts during my interview.

LH: What are you currently doing?

RB: I am currently the Head of Talent Development at StepStone Group in NYC, a global private markets firm that provides customized investment and advisory solutions to many of the most sophisticated investors in the world. My mission is to cultivate a culture of creative, curious, collaborative, and continuous learners across 13 countries and 19 locations.

I am responsible for the firm’s global learning strategy and am leading an L&D Council to determine how to best develop the competencies needed (e.g., creative problem solving, growth mindset, leadership, teamwork) today and in the near future. Another key responsibility is to upskill and reskill our people as quickly and effectively as possible, utilizing technology, relevant and engaging content, and multiple training modalities.

I, as many people have during the global pandemic, am actively involved with providing our employees with COVID-19 specific resources. These include virtual trainings and other information from the perspectives of Work, Family/Roommates, and Well-Being. I am currently collaborating with Professor Marina Bers to deliver a webinar to StepStone families with young children. Professor Bers will provide the families with helpful resources to support their child’s development and enhance their virtual learning experiences.

I am also active in my firm’s global D&I efforts, which includes leading focus groups and collaborating with my HR colleagues to improve how we source, interview, hire, and develop our diverse employees.

LH: In what ways do you use your degree from Eliot-Pearson in your current work?

RB: What do all adults have in common? At sometime in their lives they were children and went through various stages (e.g., cognitive, social and emotional) of childhood. The pedagogy that I learned at E-P is easily transferable to working with and teaching adults. I have drawn upon the teachings and applied experience opportunities from E-P as an IT Business Analyst and Project Manager, L&D Consultant and Supervisor, and now as the Head of Talent Development at a successful, global firm.

I use my degree every day, whether I am working directly with children and their families in extracurricular activities or indirectly with colleagues who may or may not have children. I regularly draw upon Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Theory, Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory, and Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory as I integrate sound early childhood practices, such as good interpersonal interactions and assessments, into my learning and development activities.

LH: Do you have any advice or words for current E-P students?

RB: Savor your time at E-P and get to know the amazing faculty, knowledgeable staff, and diverse students. The rich learning experiences, strong relationships and numerous, positive memories will last you a lifetime.

After graduation, give back to E-P by volunteering your time and pledging a monetary gift to support the many wonderful programs and scholarships that E-P offers.

Stay in touch with each other via the E-P alumni listserv, Tufts Alumni Association, Jumbo Career Network, LinkedIn, et cetera.

Continue to, in whatever career path you choose and wherever life takes you, make a positive impact on the lives of children and families in diverse communities.

Stay safe and well. Go Jumbos!

LH: Anything else you’d like to share?

RB: The best thing about my time at E-P was meeting Kathleen Mohrle, M.A.T. 1996. We recently celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary and are blessed with two wonderful children. Karina Rose is a sophomore and aspiring writer and Ryan Ming is an 8th grader who is interested in political science.

Community Blog

E-P Grad Student Helps Create Michigan Policy for COVID-19 Education

By Melissa Lovitz

This summer I worked at Michigan State University (MSU) at the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) Lab. In April, the Michigan Department of Education asked EPIC to help them understand how Michigan districts planned to continue educating students as school buildings closed due to COVID-19. To do so, our research team obtained and coded Continuity of Learning (COL) plans from 813 Michigan school district put in place for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year to address how school districts would function with the suspension of face-to-face instruction. I had several responsibilities including developing a coding rubric and creating a codebook for the data collection team, monitoring data collection progress, and interpreting the results. We wrote up our findings in policy brief to share with Michigan education partners and education researchers. To me, this is a great example of 21st Century research. We responded to a real world, practice-related issue, developed a research study to answer critical questions about how Michigan school districts planned to educate students during Covid-19, and created a resource for policymakers to help inform decisions for the 2020-2021 school year. You can read the policy brief here: https://epicedpolicy.org/how-did-michigan-school-districts-plan-to-educate-students-during-covid-19/

About the Author: Melissa Lovitz is an E-P doctoral student and a Research Analyst at the Tufts Interdisciplinary Evaluation Research (TIER) group. Melissa received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut and her Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University. At Tufts, she studies parent-child relationships, family engagement across students’ educational trajectory, and parental role construction in the contexts of early childhood education and development.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Master’s Candidate Libby Hunt

Each month, our Outreach Team highlights a current student who is innovating to positively advance the department’s mission while excelling in their studies at Tufts.

This month, Outreach Coordinator Nick Woolf interviewed Libby Hunt, who just completed the first year of her Master’s program, to learn more about her experiences at E-P.

Who: Libby Hunt

Graduation Year: 2021

Program: Child Studies and Human Development, M.A. Candidate

Nick: Tell me about your path — what brought you to Tufts, and what were you doing prior to enrolling?

Libby: My journey to graduate school was a little all over the place. I worked in a number of different fields between undergrad and grad school – I’ve been a server, a paralegal, an office manager, and more. Working in offices wasn’t really feeding my soul, so I started taking night classes in psychology (I was an English major in undergrad). Through those courses I became really taken with early childhood development – I was (and am) particularly interested in the impact of screens on social, emotional, and cognitive development, so I sought out a program that would help me pursue those interests. I was drawn to E-P because it is a development-specific program, and because the department’s mission resonated with my own.  

Nick: What types of research and/or applied work are you involved with at E-P?

Libby: Throughout my first year at E-P I worked as a research assistant in the DevTech research group. I was fortunate to participate in a few different types of research projects, most relating to the group’s KIBO robotics kits and how they can be implemented in K-2 classrooms. I conducted numerous ethnographic observations and gained experience in data collection. I also helped craft a curriculum for DevTech’s coding app, ScratchJr. In the fall (COVID-19 permitting) I will be interning at the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, and starting my thesis research. 

Nick: How would you describe your experience as a Master’s student at E-P so far?

Libby: I feel so thankful that this is the school and the program I ended up in. I have felt so supported by the faculty, who go above and beyond to encourage our interests and help create opportunities for growth. In each course I’ve taken thus far, my foundation of developmental theory has strengthened, my perspective has broadened, and my goals for the future have become more focused. I’m also grateful to be part of a small cohort of excellent individuals who represent a broad array of interests an experiences. Throughout our first year we have learned as much from one another as we did our professors.  

Nick: Do you have any advice, tips or words of wisdom to incoming E-P students?

Libby: It’s a good idea to look at the faculty page of the website, and seek out the faculty whose research most aligns with your interests, but also be open to talking to everyone. Every professor is willing to meet with you, and everyone has worthwhile advice to offer. Try to get involved in a lab within the department – it will give you research experience and insight on where your passions lie. Attend workshops (Sasha Fleary’s workshop on being a 9-5 academic changed my life) and social events hosted by the department/masters student association. Talk to other students – second-year masters students and PhD students have all been where you are now, and are happy to answer any questions you might have/share their own experiences. Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, take care of yourself and take pride in your work. Grad school is no joke – get sleep, drink water, stay active, and know that you deserve to be here. 

Lab Updates

Understanding Coding as Literacy

Author: Mathieu Girard


Almost 1000 years ago, Normandy invaded England, demanding a census that would improve colonial organization and administration. At this point, only scribes and administrators possessed the ability to read and write, and thus, they held the power to record and share information. In order to participate in the community and share ideas, people realized that they also needed to read and write. In essence, as the number of people who were literate increased, so did the need to be literate. While it seems that literacy is simply defined as the ability to read and write, University of Pittsburgh professor Annette Vee notes that this ignores social and historical context, and literacy should instead be defined as “a human facility with symbolic and infrastructural technology that can be used for creative, communicative and rhetorical purposes”.  As such, the textual writing system is simply a technology – a mode for literacy, but not the only one. Meanwhile, whether or not a set of communicative skills can be considered a literacy depends on social context, and how central to life that technology is.

Back in 1086 when the Normans invaded England, there were no computers – everything had to be recorded through writing. Humans then interpreted this writing and made decisions. In our society today, decisions are not simply based on the interpretation of written words. Evidence used to inform decisions comes from computer-based programs and algorithms, created through computational code. To name a few examples, we base our health policy on predictions generated by computational models, we have programs that can predict the likelihood that a defendant is guilty during a trial, and we even have algorithms that can determine someone’s identity using visual data. Put simply, computer programs pervade our lives. In order to manipulate computer programs and thereby understand the world around us, everyone must possess some knowledge of code. For this reason, coding is the technology for computational literacy, empowering those who can use it to think freely and express themselves.  The computationally literate have already begun to take advantage of the computationally illiterate, as seen through data selling and phishing scams. Computational literacy grants people the ability to maintain control over their own lives, as well as participate in civic matters.

Before learning more about computational literacy in the Spring class taught by Prof. Marina Bers, Technological Tools for Playful Learning, I assumed that coding simply taught more about problem solving. I neglected to think about a key way by which coding resembles writing – the ultimate goal of both is expression. American monk Walter J. Ong noted that “articulated truth has no permanence,” meaning that simply speaking a thought does not effectively communicate that message to anyone who is not present for the event during which the thought is spoken. In order to convey that message to a wider audience, it must be recorded. Writing has historically served as the instrument for recording. Ong further stated that writing separates the known from the knower, and a being from time. It is now clear to me that these functions are also completed by code. In class, we taught coding with young children at the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School Through code, and we discovered that children (and people of all ages) can build a program or project that reflects their internal processes, facilitating the expression of some type of message. This program or project can be shared with anyone, providing a medium for separating the known from the knower, and the being from time. One’s thoughts, expressed through code, can exist for much longer than an articulated thought. Coding facilitates communication and is central to the world in which we live, clearly constituting a literacy.

Lab Updates

Voices from the Crehan ASD Lab: Community Advisory Board Meeting

This article was authored by Xihan Yang, a member of the Crehan ASD Lab.


On February 27th, 2020, the Crehan Lab hosted a Community Advisory Board Meeting in the curriculum lab. The goal of this annual meeting is to integrate community voices into our autism research through open dialogue. Attendees represented a range of disciplines and programs, including Tufts Student Accessibility Services and the Tufts Academic Resource Center, the Autism Program at Boston Medical Center, occupational therapists, students, and self-advocates. Dr. Crehan described five ongoing studies, a potential future project, and administrative questions, and board members were encouraged to give feedback out loud or in written form after meeting, depending on their comfort level. 

The Looking Study uses eye tracking to understand social cognitive processes in children with ASD and/or ADHD with the goal of understanding how social cognitive abilities manifest as eye movements. The board suggested providing some background information on the characters, such as their social relationships, used in the theory of mind stories and paradigms. The example they provided included creating a story with characters who had a positive or negative relationship. One of the board members also encouraged the lab to expand the participant population and include people without ASD, allowing us to compare patterns relative to diagnostic status. These comparisons could enable us to provide materials or social stories targeting the needs of the autistic population in future work.  Including individuals without ASD can also give a preview for further research studies on individuals’ understanding of different social relationships in various contexts, which would be applicable to a larger population. Other suggestions included combining the lab’s ongoing study in relation to sex education and sexuality questionnaires with the study of theory of mind.

Physical activity for adults with ASD is a new topic that the lab is preparing this year. The board members recommended the lab start with focus groups to figure out the specific activities and exercises that adults with ASD are interested in. Planning of physical activities among the autistic population was also discussed and recommended to be pushed later.

These community stakeholders brought important new perspectives for future research. Personally, I asked questions about conducting sexual education among autistic teenagers in relation to our current project. The board proposed a shorter time span of the curriculum and reminded me that the content need to be succinct and appropriate for the autistic group. In general, this community advisory board meeting not only provided our lab some insights that we previously had not thought of and provided guidance for future research directions, but also gathered input from people who are invested in positive outcomes for individuals with autism. 

The lab intends to hold similar events in the future to strengthen the bond with the autism community and form connections between resources and individuals with ASD. For future events, we want to invite more board members. Other than the current board members, relevant policy makers and special educators can also be potential attendees. The format of the meeting can also be extended to online meetings and even periodic report and communication among board members and research teams. With the cooperation of different groups and incorporation of various views, we expect a brighter future for autism research.

Community Blog

Managing During a Pandemic: Resources for Families

With schools in many states closing through the end of the academic year, stress is at an all-time high for many caregivers as they navigate their own remote work schedules with homeschooling and caring for their families. To help support parents and educators in need, students in the Assessment of Children course at Eliot-Pearson created a series of informational videos to share with families on ways to manage effectively care for young children during the pandemic.


Creator: Li Yin Cheok

Description: If you are having trouble distinguishing between facts and fake news, this video might help! It will show you some steps you can take to ensure the sources of information you find on the internet are trustworthy and relevant to you.


Creators: Sara Dionisio and Twinkle Suthar

Description: During these uncertain times, it can feel overwhelming as parents of young children, but we just wanted to let you all know that you are not alone in this and that you are all doing amazing! Here are some activity ideas from our families to your families!


Creators: Deyun Gong and Xihan Yang

Description: This video offers some suggestions to parents whose children are toddlers and preschoolers on how to plan a virtual playdate.


Creator: Jessica Rocha

Description: Given this uncertain time, this video is meant to reassure and validate parents that it is okay to feel anxious and overwhelmed. Parents are being asked to juggle a lot of different roles right now and wearing so many new hats at once can coincide with feelings of failure, inadequacy and frustration. It is okay if every day is not productive or the perfect balance of homeschooling, working from home, and parenting. The best way that we can support children through this pandemic, is by making sure that we are supporting parents.


Creators: Rachel Viselman and Nicole Zolli

Description: This video is intended to provide parents of children with ADHD a variety of disorder-specific resources to support them in teaching their children about COVID-19. These resources include (1) evidence-based communication techniques and (2) engaging, physical activities to explain the science and psychosocial implications of COVID-19. We hope that these resources, especially the activities, engage children with ADHD, lessen their anxieties around COVID-19 and strengthen the parent-child bond.

Community Blog

Helping Families in Need: EPCS Graduate Fellows Create Fun Activities For Parents

With schools across the country closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of parents and caregivers are in need of resources and guidance when it comes to continuing the education of their children at home.

Eliot-Pearson Children’s School (EPCS) announced that it will close for two weeks, beginning on 3/16/2020, as a precautionary measure to protect the health and safety of their students, staff, and families. To help the families of their students, all EPCS Graduate Fellows have stepped up to create a series of age-appropriate activities for parents to implement at home with their children!

Click here to access all of the activities!

Alumni Spotlight

The Nature Pre-School: The Wonder Of It All

Through crisp Fall air, I follow a line of sixteen children along a leaf-strewn trail.  These children are dressed in waterproof rain pants and boots and are headed to a nearby pond. Along the trail, we visit the stream running behind our school.  After a few rainy weeks, this stream is very full, culminating in a large, deep puddle.  To everyone’s delight, this discovery led to an impromptu exploration of sink and float, as children started tossing in objects that they found along the trail.  “I see it floating!”  “I want to try with a walnut.”  “It (a crab apple)floats!” “It went into the water!  Kaploo!”  

These children are part of a class of preschoolers at Drumlin Farm Community Preschool in Lincoln, MA [https://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/drumlin-farm/programs-classes-activities/community-preschool], where I’ve been teaching for the past three years.  This school is part of a growing movement of nature preschools across the country.  Natural Start Alliance [https://naturalstart.org/], part of the North American Association for Environmental Education [https://naaee.org/], cites as their foundation the beliefs that “quality education for young children includes regular opportunities to connect with nature and the local environment… [and] that as children learn to care for themselves and others, they also begin to learn to care for the world around them.”  Drumlin Farm is also part of the Mass Audubon network [https://www.massaudubon.org/], which includes nature-preschools as part of their strategic vision for connecting people to nature and advocating for environmental issues.

This stream is only a small part of the sanctuary that these children will explore over the course of the school year.  The children also participate in farm life, with weekly chores in which they care for the animals on the farm.  They help to grow and harvest fruits and vegetables, and we regularly bake and cook, using food produced right on the farm.  This curriculum is created with a goal of giving children meaningful experiences with the natural world around them, as a growing body of research shows that people who have had positive experiences in nature as children go on to be advocates for the environment as adults.

As someone who cares deeply about the environment and worries about the world my own children are growing up in, this last point is a major reason why I feel passionate about the work that I do with my little band of preschoolers.  I am not an engineer with the technological solutions to clean our air or stem the effects of climate change, but I can do my part with this group of muddy children.  They are learning the things that preschoolers should learn – how to set goals, keep themselves safe, negotiate with their friends, and solve problems.  We weave in all of the so-called “Kindergarten readiness” concepts into our curriculum as well – we play with concepts in reading, math, science, and social studies.  But just as importantly, these children are learning to value the world outdoors, and may someday become grown-ups who fight for the environment as well.

For now, we focus our energy on this stream.  We exclaim over how much it has grown or shrunk, we find things to toss into it or pull out of it, we marvel at the sound it makes or the way it smells.  And then we move on down the trail, looking for more things that make us wonder.

Jessie Gildea Trowbridge earned her MA at Eliot-Pearson in 2007 and has been teaching at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Community Preschool for the past three years.  She is also a trainer and course developer for Early Childhood Educators, providing trainings and workshops across the state.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Master’s Candidate Emma Weihe

Each month, our Outreach Team highlights a current student who is innovating to positively advance the department’s mission while excelling in their studies at Tufts.

This month, Outreach Coordinator Nick Woolf interviewed second-year Master’s student Emma Weihe to learn more about her time at Tufts and passion for bringing performing arts to children with special needs.

Who: Emma Weihe

Graduation Year: 2020

Program: Child Studies and Human Development, M.A. Candidate

Emma Weihe, Class of 2020

Nick: Tell me about your path — what brought you to Tufts, and what were you doing prior to enrolling?

Emma: During my time at The Ohio State University, where I went to undergrad, I was involved in the Shakespeare and Autism Project, which utilized a specific type of drama therapy as a way to teach social skills for children on the autism spectrum. I fell in love with the work and wanted to pursue this further, but I didn’t quite know how. I was drawn to Tufts, and specifically EP, because of the program’s flexibility and interdisciplinary nature. I knew I wanted to integrate performing arts and child development, especially with children with special needs, and I knew that there were plenty of resources at Tufts and Boston that would help me figure out what I needed to do.

Nick: What types of research and/or applied work are you involved with at E-P?

Emma: I worked in Eileen Crehan’s lab over the summer and helped with her research on sex education with autistic adults. As for applied work, I am currently interning with Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) in their Access to Theatre (ATT) program. This group uses theatre to develop social, communication and self-advocacy skills for young adults with disabilities in the greater Boston area. Additionally, I am currently planning to collaborate with a local high school’s drama club to create a sensory-friendly performance for audience members who may benefit from a more relaxed setting.

Nick: What was the genesis for/inspiration behind your internship this past summer? How has the experience been continuing there during the school year?

Emma: Access to Theatre has two main programs: one in the school year that focuses more on concrete skill-building, and the Summer Institute where participants create a variety show from scratch over the course of two weeks. I had heard of this program at a conference I attended, so they were on my radar, but it wasn’t until I was connected with the people at ATT that I realized that I could get involved. The Summer Institute was a whirlwind two weeks, but in that time, I was able to observe skilled teaching artists and work with wonderful participants as we created our show together. It was important that it was a collaborative experience, because I was able to learn about the disabled experience and forming a positive identity around that label.

Being at ATT in their summer program was quite helpful in transitioning to the weekend programming. I am familiar with the main facilitators, some of the participants, and a number of the activities used in each workshop. This familiarity allows me to stay in the moment and focus on the activities and how the participants engage with them.

Nick: How would you describe your experience as part of Applied Track at E-P so far?

Emma: I love the opportunity to be a part of the applied track. It is so important to bring the real world into academic life. Often, especially as grad students, we can get sucked into bubble of academia that we lose touch with our own experiences or the people we want to help. Interning and creating a capstone rather than a thesis really helps to keep these ideas at the front of my mind as I continue through school.

Nick: Do you have any advice, tips or words of wisdom to current E-P students?

Emma: Go out and explore! Go to conferences. Try projects that might not work. Reach out to faculty at other schools in the area. You’re here to learn, why not use all the opportunities afforded to you?