Alumnae/i Feature

Ilana Feldman ’23MSW: Empowering Communication and Connection with the Special Needs’ Population

Ilana Feldman ’23MSW
Ilana Feldman ’23MSW

“All my life, working with the special needs population has been my passion. I landed my dream job right out of college.”

Ilana Feldman is a social worker in the Deafblind School at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts—the oldest school for the blind in the U.S. She works with students ages three to 22, all of whom have varying degrees of deafness and blindness. Using spoken and written language, American Sign Language, Braille, iPads, tactile signing, and other modes of communication, Feldman conducts one-on-one sessions as well as facilitates groups on building social skills. As a member of the social-emotional team, she collaborates with teachers, parents, and the community to provide “truly holistic support,” she says. “The Total Communication philosophy at Perkins,” she explains, “means we take the time to learn how each student best communicates.”

On Choosing Simmons

Feldman was well acquainted with Simmons’s reputation for superior social work education—she earned a Bachelor of Social Work from Simmons in 2022. She went on to the Simmons Master of Social Work Advanced Standing program, a rigorous, accelerated option that allows students with a BSW to complete an MSW in nine months. In addition to a faster path into the workforce, the Advanced Standing program — the only nine-month MSW program in New England — offers significant cost savings. “It was the ideal option for me,” says Feldman. “I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Simmons.”

How Simmons prepared her

Feldman reports that the Advanced Standing program pushed her “in the best way possible.” The well-designed curriculum, including a one-semester weekly practicum seminar, not only deepened her theoretical knowledge but also built higher-level clinical skills. She appreciated the varied backgrounds of her fellow MSW students, as well as the tremendous faculty support she received—essential for such a challenging program, she notes. Feldman completed her two-semester advanced field placement at the Price Center, a social services organization in Newton, Massachusetts, which provides programs and support for individuals with cognitive and developmental differences. During her time there, she created and implemented lesson plans, managed Individualized Service Plans (ISPs), and designed sensory spaces to promote coping strategies and emotional regulation techniques for 20 clients over the age of 22. Feldman highlights the emphasis on cultural humility at Simmons, a practice she now applies daily in her new role. “It’s recognizing that we’re always learning,” she says.

Why the work is meaningful

“Each one of my students is so unique in how they navigate the world,” says Feldman. She adds, “All my life, working with the special needs population has been my passion. I landed my dream job right out of college.”

Publish Date