“It's funny how the teacher usually ends up doing the most learning,” Kayla Cody ’15 admitted in regard to her time at the New England Center for Children (NECC). According to Cody, it was her time at the Center in the spring that solidified her passion for children and mental health. This summer, Cody is conducting research with Boston University Assistant Professor of Special Education Dr. Jennifer Green on mental health care services and treatment options for children in the United States. Her work is supported by the Summer Internship Support Fund, managed by the Career Center.
Seeking research opportunities for the summer, Cody discovered Green, a child clinical psychologist, and “fell in love with her [current and previous] work.”
Grateful for her firsthand experience with students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders at the NECC, Cody “immediately knew that [Green’s] projects were what [she] wanted to be part of and help develop.” Since Cody plans to attend a graduate school program for clinical psychology after graduating from Hamilton, she was “thrilled and accepted a research assistant position on [Green’s] team.”
Green’s work focuses on how teachers can help support students with emotional and behavioral disorders, a decisive role in the child’s education and development. Cody explained that since “schools play such an influential role in the diagnostic and referral processes, as well as the support services provided for children with mental illness, [she] was excited to help work on these projects.”
Although Cody is continuously working on a variety of tasks, one of her primary undertakings is “evaluating how middle and high school general education teachers understand, help identify, and support students with emotional and behavioral challenges in the classroom.” On a day-to-day basis, her works entails data collection and analysis, reading and compiling literature reviews, editing articles for peer review, submitting IRB applications, organizing participant focus groups, and modifying survey questionnaires.
Another of Cody’s projects is an examination of “the influence of racial differences in students as they relate to special education placement and mental health service referral and diagnostic labeling.” Citing current literature on the subject, Cody noted “the relationships between several individual factors, such as race, socioeconomic status, and gender, and diagnostic labeling, special education placement, treatment options, and academic attainment.” She went on to specify that “students of color, primarily black American males, are disproportionately represented in special education classrooms,” and that “students of color are more likely to receive stigmatized labels than their white counterparts.”
“Mental health continues to be a stigmatized topic,” Cody asserted, “as a nation, this is something that needs to become a priority. When people hear ‘bipolar’ or ‘schizophrenic,’” she explained, “they often see the individual as the disorder itself, rather than a person with feelings, emotions, and humanity.” Intrigued by the cultural differences in mental health ideologies, Cody would like to conduct “personal research on mental health care access, stigma, and cultural definitions in several African diasporic communities, including Brazil, South Africa and Ghana” before beginning graduate school.
Kayla Cody is a graduate of Brookline High School, Mass.