My Time with Down Home Ranch

By: Reagan Drake, DHR Intern – Fall 2017 and Spring 2018

When I was a junior at Texas State University, I had just switched from Nursing to psychology as my major. I enjoyed the subject but I really had no experience in the field. At that time, I was looking at all my options on how I could get hands on experience. I talked to few professors about what I should do and where to look, and that’s how I stumbled upon Down Home Ranch.

I was previously in a sorority whose philanthropy was Autism Speaks. Because of this, I was familiar with Autism and from working at my job at the Texas Rowing Center, I had experience with Learning disorders. I was excited and eager to deal with Down Syndrome because I had no experience whatsoever and I was very intrigued by learning more. I knew that in the past there were times where I would feel uncomfortable with someone who had Down Syndrome because I had never had a real interaction and I was uneducated. This was something I never wanted to experience again. I wanted to be able to interact and not only make myself more comfortable but to make others more comfortable.

When I first interviewed for the intern position with my supervisor Barry Hamilton, I ran into a young man named Jason. He instantly made me feel welcomed when I first came in and within 5 minutes I had a new best friend. He wasn’t the only one who made me feel at home, every rancher I interacted with was so kind and welcoming. I truly believe from the moment I interviewed until now that the staff and ranchers made me feel right at home.

Through out my time there I was really able to make connections and to understand each person and how they may all have this general disorder that groups them together, they are all so different from each other. The individualism I saw was eye opening. I know that many people believe that everyone who has an intellectual disorder is the same, and this is just not true. I learned how each person has different things that excite them and anger them and different things that they enjoy. It was such a great learning experience for me and I enjoyed my self with them. We were always having fun and telling jokes and it was very humbling for me when I was able to help them deal with any issue they were facing.

This internship combined with my studies, really got me interested in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. At this moment, I haven’t decided the specific population I will be specializing in, but I do know it will be with underrepresented individuals and adolescents. I think its such a shame that there are not enough counselors specializing with Down Syndrome and I would love to be able to contribute to helping this population and really being able to make connections and truly make their lives more enjoyable.

I’m so excited to be welcomed back for my internship in the spring semester at Down Home Ranch. I’m thrilled to be able to learn new things and to have more experiences that will help shape me into becoming a great Mental Health Counselor.