Summer Internship Experience: Kurt Mathisen ‘15

Highlights of my internship experience:

I interned as an Adolescent Counselor at an ADHD intervention program titled "Summer Treatment Program" (STP) with the Center for Children and Families (CCF) at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, FL(picture). All participants studied under Dr. William E. Pelham who is a distinguished clinical developmental psychologist who invented the first STP in 1980. I worked with 10 adolescents transitioning from 5th grade to 6th grade throughout a 40-day program. I worked with these children between 12-14 hours a day and completed over 580 hours of counseling experience. Besides the adolescent program, there are pre-K and Elementary departments that coordinate the same procedures. The program aids in the intervention of other disorders including LD, ODD, and ASD. The STP has been considered to be the model ADHD intervention program in the United States.

I applied for this internship not thinking I would get it originally because people from all over the country applied and many were denied. They loved to read I was from Gettysburg. They never had a student at FIU from Gettysburg before! When I was hired (this was a paid internship), I had to read a very large manual about ADHD and how to carefully work with children to punish unwanted behaviors and praise requested/approved behaviors using commands and verbal feedback each counselor in the program memorized verbatim in a 300 page manual. This ensured consistency.

What I took away the most from the program was being able to understand the Miami culture while working with children in its education system. I quickly learned that many teachers that report cases of ADHD are preparing students less for the next grade's expectations, but rather for a required standardized test administered by the state of Florida (The FCAT - Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test). Many patients I interacted with reported they don't study math, but rather the FCAT. Not math textbooks but FCAT books so that Miami can get their schooled children and adolescents closer to being adequately academically proficient in the state of Florida.

It is my concern that both teaching and parenting fall short in the Miami area; especially for those who have children who have ADHD. This bad parenting has never been proven to help a child with ADHD nor make the child autonomous. At the STP, I had the opportunity to sit down with parents and their children to organize and synthesize some of the home struggles that prevented the family's children from completing homework, getting focused for the next day, and obeying adults. We worked with both parents and children in organizing rules in the household and different ways the parent and child can communicate with each other effectively so that no one feels disrespected.

This experience, along with many I had throughout the STP, fortified my dream to eventually earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. After working the summer before at a Neuropsychology Rehabilitation Services in Neptune, NJ with patients ranging from ages 5-85, it was a gift to have 583 hours to help children specifically this summer. I am currently making plans to participate in an internship working with German senior citizens in Heidelberg when I go abroad so that I understand the other end of the age spectrum as well. Overall, I would like to be able to clinically treat patients of all ages for a variety of disorders psychologically and neuropsychologically.