Summer Internship Experience: Michelle Rainaldi '14

by Michelle Rainaldi '14

I am interning at the Amazing Kids Club in Hanover, PA, which is an autism day-treatment program run by Adams Hanover Counseling Services.  In the summer, it provides therapy for children ages 2-20 with diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum. As an intern, I am in a different classroom every week, helping the staff to administer therapy daily with the children. This therapy can be anywhere from discussing how to deal with certain emotions to teaching the children emotional self-regulation and how to relax themselves by looking at certain color lights. With the flexibility of moving every week, I have been able to work with autistic children of several ages and functioning levels and learn how one disorder can take on so many forms.

Working with the program specialists, their main responsibility besides administering therapy is recording empirical data for the Clinical Coordinators.  The Clinical Coordinators are in charge of designing therapy for the children. Each day the program specialists observe the children in relation to their two daily objectives, prompting and praising their behavior as needed. These objectives are adjusted every six months by the Clinical Coordinators and parent.  Much of this is based off the data from the program specialists, making this information vital for the children’s development. As an intern, I assist the staff in determining if the children are meeting these goals and obtain further data throughout the day.

 Without my previous courses in the Psychology department at Gettysburg I would have never have been as prepared to fully take advantage of this internship. In particular, the course on Developmental Psychology: Infancy and Childhood helped me to understand the theories behind much of the therapy the program uses and how it adapts from the normal model of development and behavior for autistic children. Moreover, when I help the program specialists record experimental data for the children, many of the techniques they utilize are methods I learned in the Experimental Methods course. Since I am already familiar with how to record and observe data, I can focus on the children’s behavior and their objectives primarily.

Internships are a great way to put what I learned in my psychology courses into practice and I could not be happier with my experience with the Amazing Kids Club. However, what I was able to take out of this opportunity would not have been the same without my preparation beforehand from my undergraduate psychology experience.