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Ben Jackson spends summer at the intersection of law and medicine


Public Interest Law Fellow Ben Jackson '14 spent his summer at Project HEAL (Health Education Advocacy and Law), a program of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI). Created in 2005, Project HEAL serves as a bridge among advocates, attorneys, doctors, social workers, educators and health care advocates, enabling them to work together for the benefit of children and adolescents needing both legal and medical assistance.

Project HEAL represents school-age children from low to moderate income families with mental, physical, emotional or psychological disabilities. After an individual has been referred by the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Jackson conducts an initial client intake interview over the phone to determine if Project HEAL can help; if not the case is referred to another special education/disabilities legal service organization.

“After we’ve agreed to take the case, I schedule an in-person intake to review clinician reports as well as evaluations conducted by the school system including any current Individualized Education Program (IEP) plans," said Jackson. “We use the evaluations and assessments conducted by the Kennedy Krieger Institute clinicians to advocate for the students to get them the proper support and accommodations. It’s extremely important for the parents to know their rights up front in case intervention is needed.”

Education is another fundamental component of the Project. One of Jackson’s training sessions involved teaching police officers how to identify and interact with an individual on the autism spectrum. Another session that Jackson co-taught with a fellow intern was for a support group of parents with children who have limb disabilities. “During our meeting, I had to explain the IEP process to the parents of children who had not entered school yet and what they should expect when interacting with the school system,” Jackson said.

“The experience has been awesome. I had the opportunity to have a discussion with three representatives in charge of the special education program from the Community Development Authority (CDA) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (PACT office), including H.E. Khalid Mohammed Ali Al Kamda, director general of the CDA; Dr. Bushra Al Mulla, director of Social Care and Inclusion Department; and Dr. Hussain Maseeh, social care expert. It was a really unique experience because Dubai is new to disabilities facilitation and they wanted to learn from an already established organization like Project HEAL. We had a great conversation comparing and contrasting our country’s implementation methods.”

Jackson is the first Penn State Law intern that Project HEAL has hosted. Because Project HEAL is located in Baltimore most interns come from either the University of Maryland or the University of Baltimore. Located in the Clinical Research Center, Project HEAL staff share a floor with clinicians from the Kennedy Krieger Institute. “This is great because if I have a question about a particular disability or client I can directly interface with his or her medical or psychological care provider,” Jackson said.

More summer work 

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