Disability Awareness and Education

Since its inception, the Brandeis Genetic Counseling Program has had a strong disability focus, making it the first program to incorporate disability issues into its curriculum.

Students begin their training with a number of experiences that provide valuable insights from individuals and families who live with a disability or genetic condition. It is our hope that hearing and reflecting on these stories will allow students to gain new perspective that will positively influence how they interact with their patients in clinical practice.

Disability Awareness and Genetic Counseling (BIOL 211)

This one semester course, taken in the fall of Year 1, introduces the importance of disability awareness. The course includes:

Community Placement

Students spend approximately one day per week in a placement (see list below) that offers services to individuals with disabilities that may include autism, blindness, Down syndrome or other intellectual or physical disabilities. The settings are multidisciplinary and may offer educational, vocational and/or medical services. This experience provides students the opportunity to develop a comfort level working with children or adults who have a range of abilities, as well as develop relationships with educators or other providers who offer valuable services in the community.

Placement Opportunities

In-Class Disability Education

Class time is spent discussing disability, typical human development, special education law and hearing and reading about stories from individuals, parents and families who are touched by a wide variety of genetic conditions. Students are asked to reflect on the stories they hear and consider how this will impact them as a genetic counselor.

Family Pals

Pairs of students are assigned time to spend with a Family Pal, energetic families who have at one least child with a disability or genetic condition and have graciously agreed to spend two or three sessions sharing their story with our students. Visits, which may occur in the family's home or a public place, give students the opportunity to learn what it is like to raise a child with special needs and to witness some of the day-to-day challenges these families face. This experience gives students tremendous insight into the impact that having a child with a disability or genetic condition has on everyone in the family.

Personal Narratives Series

Students, in both their first and second years, return before classes begin in January to participate in two days of programming dedicated to further augment their exposure to the lived experiences of individuals and families with a genetic condition or disability. Speakers share a variety of stories, from living with a genetic variant that causes familial cancer, to growing up with a debilitating condition, to continuing a pregnancy diagnosed genetic disease. All of the sessions include open dialogue among the students, faculty and invited guests, making it a meaningful learning experience for everyone involved.