Intern with autism inspires, impresses researchers at Duke

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Families dealing with autism often turn toward Duke’s Center for Autism and Brain Development. Researchers are working to learn more about autism and help those who have it.

This summer the center hired its first intern with autism. Raghav Swaminathan spent the summer helping out with everything from scanning papers to cleaning and organizing research supplies.

Dr. Jill Lorenzi, the director of early intervention services at the center, says Raghav quickly became a valuable part of the team.

“He interacts with patients in the waiting room in the morning when he’s waiting to get started. He’s very friendly,” she explained.

Raghav has never let his autism get in the way of his goals. He attends a college program at Clemson University and he makes friends with just about everyone he meets.

He hopes to work in a similar setting when he graduates from school.

“I see myself in five years being independent, holding onto a job, paying my own bills,” he said.

The internship not only gave Raghav an opportunity to develop his skills, it gave those around him a chance to learn more about people with autism.

“I think it’s been really nice, even for people outside of our center within the building, to see that he’s able to do a lot of the things that are needed in this kind of setting – a workplace environment. He’s been able to contribute to a lot of different ways to our team,” said Lorenzi.

While everyone with autism has different skills and different challenges, Raghav’s accomplishments encourage other families dealing with a similar diagnosis.

“I think other parents who are able to see him and the success that he’s had would be really inspired by his work,” said Lorenzi.

“Nothing limits me because of my disability; I just keep on going,” Swaminathan said.

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