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Second-year occupational therapy student Kendyl Cole discovered her passion for the profession and for working with people with neurological disorders through a family friend whose experiences with autism spectrum disorder changed Cole’s worldview and led her to a profession rooted in serving others.

“He was the first person I met who had autism,” Cole explained. “He is such an amazing individual and taught me so much about how people who function a little differently from you are not really different in a lot of ways.”

Cole is a trainee with the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disorders (LEND) program at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. At LEND, Cole enjoys the interdisciplinary nature of her work and the ability to work with others who face a range of neurodevelopmental disorders.

“The LEND program is unique, because it teaches me how I can be a leader in the realm of OT,” Cole said. “I get to work collaboratively with other disciplines.”

Cole said she didn’t realize she wanted to pursue occupational therapy until her senior year in college. “With occupational therapy, you can work in so many different fields and so many different practice arenas,” Cole explained. “I really like to switch up what I’m doing. […] It’s such a tremendous fit for who I am. I think I really am lucky to have found that good match.”

The program has honed Cole’s critical and clinical reasoning skills.

“I sort of wanted to be challenged to think differently,” Cole said. “I just feel really lucky to be in UNC’s program.” The division is housed in the Department of Allied Health Sciences.