We are in the middle of spring quarter and the GCP is buzzing with excitement here at Cincinnati and CCHMC.  Us first years are working on our thesis projects and getting ready for IRB submission within the next few months.  The second years are getting interviews, landing jobs, and looking forward to graduation in just a few short weeks.  Classes are in full swing, and first years are anxiously waiting as our summer rotations will begin when classes end.  As part of one of our classes, Introduction to Genetic Counseling, we are putting in time at either Easter Seals or Starfire Counsel of Greater Cincinnati to experience different types of community outreach and programs for individuals with developmental disorders.  I am putting in my hours at Starfire and I have to say it is an incredible experience thus far.  I baked cookies and brownies for local firefighters to thank the firefighters for all of their hard work with three Starfire Members.  I also got to do some great craft projects and visit the Asian Culture Festival at the Cincinnati Museum Center.  The Culture Festival in particular was a great experience for the Members as well as me because we got to learn a lot of great tidbits while really getting out into the Cincinnati community.   These have all been valuable experiences for me as the individuals over at Starfire have showed me glimpses into their lives such as where they go to school, where they work, where they live, and what they enjoy doing in their free time.  I get the incredible opportunity to work closely with the Starfire members, and they have taught me a lot.Leslie, one of my second years, wrote a previous post on how ipads have changed interactions and communication for individuals who previously struggled with communicating due to various genetic conditions.  I had a similar experience at a Starfire craft afternoon, and I really wanted to share it. 
Everyone has a cellphone now.  Whether it is a smartphone to check e-mails or just a basic texting phone, we all can’t live without it as our communication to friends, parents, and others would be limited.  Well, three girls with whom I was making spring wreaths with showed me that they needed a cell phone to not just have friendly conversations, but any conversations at all.  Due to various reasons or conditions, these three girls are deaf.  One had cochlear implants and could translate for the other two, but in instances where they forgot how to finger spell a word or their home signs conflicted, they texted their thoughts out on their large-screened cell phone to each other and to me.  I was amazed as I have only used my cell phone as a way to keep in contact with my long-distance relationships, to check e-maiIs, and occasionally as a calorie tracker when I am particularly motivated.  I walked into the group feeling like an outsider because it had been 4 years since I’ve had an ASL class to knowing these girls and having a great relationship with them.  Thank you texting!!  I will admit before this experience texting was obnoxious to me and I couldn’t see the reason why people don’t just call each other for answers or to chat.  While I still am the rare person who prefers phone calls to texting on my phone, this Starfire experience really opened my eyes to what we see as a mundane comfort can really be critical in communication for others.  Instead of not getting your needs accomplished due to conflicting sign understandings, or not remembering the exact ASL for a thought, you can just text out what you want to say and thus communicate with medical professionals, order lunch, or even just have conversation over a Saturday afternoon arts and crafts session.  Experiences like these really allow me to see different utilities for technology.  So, like Leslie had mentioned previously, although this wasn’t the point of texting when it first became a standard in life, we can all now take a step back and realize that for some individuals texting has really improved their quality of life.  How great is that? 
-Amy Gladstone, First Year Student