First Person: Experience at the Kid’s Zone fueled my passion for psychology

First Person: Experience at the Kids Zone fueled my passion for psychology

BY EMMA PETRYK (’16)

Everything was going smoothly on my first day of work in the Kids’ Zone at a gym, until I heard the glass door behind me fly open. I turned around and saw a large boy. I am not sure what was more startling: the hand gestures he was making towards the television or the faint mustache on his upper lip? I became even more puzzled when the boy started groaning; I couldn’t tell if he was happy, sad, or mad. I clicked on the television and he selected the movie Veggie Tales. I could not understand why a boy his age would want to watch Veggie Tales. When I thought it could not get any stranger, it did; the boy fast-forwarded through the entire movie and only played the credits, repeatedly. He recorded the credits on his iPad and played both simultaneously. For the next two hours, I watched this boy continuously watch the credits on both devices. Finally, the boy’s mother returned from her workout and thanked me for watching her son, Jace*.

After he left, I walked out to the front desk and asked my coworker if she knew him. She told me his mother explained to her that Jace is on the autistic spectrum and cannot speak. This immediately answered all of my questions from earlier, but it raised even more questions. After I left work that night, I went home and researched autism, which increased my interest and my questions.

After a few months into my job, I built a special relationship with Jace. One day, Jace and I were in the Kids’ Zone when a little boy entered with his dad. His dad warned me to watch out for him. I did not think much of this at first, but within 20 minutes the boy was frantically running around and getting close to Jace’s face. Unsure how Jace would react, I repeatedly asked the little boy to settle down and he resisted. I was starting to get frustrated when a coworker walked into the room and asked if the new boy’s dad told me he had autism. This threw me off. I wondered how both these boys could have autism but behave so differently.

My interest in how the brain works was increased when my nephew was diagnosed with the rare condition PACC (Partial Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum). It is a birth defect where part of the corpus callosum (the membrane that separates the left and right hemisphere) is underdeveloped. When my nephew was one-year o-d, he experienced his first seizure, and he has since suffered from developmental delays. It is heartbreaking to watch my nephew struggle, I have sleepless nights worrying about him. It is even more worrisome because of the scarce amount of doctors familiar with his condition.

My experiences with these three boys is what started my passion for psychology. After taking an introductory course in psychology, my interest in mental and behavioral processes continues to grow. I observe the boys at work and I am fascinated by their similarities and differences. Being helpless when it comes to my nephew’s condition is aggravating. These three boys have made a major impact on my life and I dream of doing the same for them. I am now considering going to medical school and pursuing a career in neurology or psychiatry. My career goal is to answer the questions that arise when it comes to mental processing and mental and emotional disorders. I hope to make a difference for these three boys and many others by discovering why our brains function the way they do.

*Names have been changed to protect identity

Emma Petryk is a senior at Granville High School. BluePrints welcomes “First Person” submissions and other reader essays. Send your writings to [email protected]