The following blog was written by George Washington University Law Student and Autism Speaks volunteer-intern Megan Robertson.
My supervisor at Autism Speaks wasn’t kidding when he told me that this was not going to be your typical 1L summer internship. From the bright blue and teal office walls, to sharing space with the hardworking (and always fun) field staff team, to the widest variety of assignments I have ever received – working at Autism Speaks was not just atypical – it was the most inspiring and educational work environment I could have asked for in a 1L summer position.
I was exposed to just about every branch of disability policy you could think of.
Scientific research, accessible and affordable housing needs, financial stability, healthcare, and safety were just a few. The learning curve was massive, but the mentorship of the advocacy team was larger than life and gave me the ultimate leg-up. Within the first week I had a solid baseline of knowledge that would help me as I expanded my horizons to include competitive integrated employment issues, state Medicaid plans, how to write a public comment, and how to navigate the daunting landscape of Capitol Hill.
This all sounds like a lot of work – which it was – but one cannot work for an organization like Autism Speaks without having a little fun, too. The D.C. office is a world-class welcoming committee. The advocacy team, the field staff, my fellow interns, the Bike to the Beach staff, and the weekly volunteers all made the summer a blast. I also got to meet policymakers from other disability organizations through various meetings and our Autism Speaks Leadership Summit. They were all not only impressively intelligent and helpful, but also incredibly kind.
With all of this said, there is one thought that motivated me through my time at Autism Speaks: This is real life, real world, real impact stuff. Even if you have zero connection to autism from the outset, it is basically impossible to not have those real people and families on your mind as you work every day. Even the smallest project leaves a mark.
As I have emphasized to the office many times, the Autism Speaks team hasn’t seen the last of me. The amount of blue in my wardrobe is steadily increasing and my puzzle piece pin is a prized possession. I cannot wait to participate in the D.C. events over the next two years of law school and to stop by the office just to say hello. I’m so grateful for all that I’ve learned, the skills that I’ve developed, and the relationships that I’ve built from spending a summer as the Autism Speaks Legal Intern.