During this past summer, the Earl Woods Scholars participated in more than 30 internship opportunities in California, Washington, D.C., and around the world. Johanna Otico, a fourth-year Scholar majoring in psychology at Whitman College, interned with the Child Development Center at the University of California, Irvine. In her essay, she describes what she gained from her experience and how this will translate into her future endeavors after graduating in the spring of 2013.
This summer, I spent nine weeks interning with the Summer Treatment Program through UCI's Child Development Center. I worked with several other counselors in a group of 11 children that had behavioral problems and diagnoses, including ADHD, ODD and autism. This internship has been a wonderful learning experience and has definitely helped me grow both on a professional and personal level.
Two summers ago, when I was interning with the TWLC, I struggled with a lack of confidence while working with children, feeling somewhat apprehensive and out of my comfort zone. While I always felt comfortable as a leader for my peers, and even felt at ease in conversation with my elders, I used to get a bit nervous when dealing with children. After the experience I had at the Learning Center, I gained a lot of progress toward my goal of being a respected, but also well-liked authority figure for kids.
Now, after my experience with the Summer Treatment Program, I feel infinitely more comfortable working with children and communicating with them. Part of this is due to the highly structured setting, where most of the vocabulary I have to use is part of a script that the children are expected to recognize. However, I also feel that I have made a huge amount of progress in my own communication skills, making me a better leader for young children.
Thanks to this internship, I also feel much more assertive and in charge. I have never really had a problem with assertiveness in social situations, but sometimes in professional and formal situations, I felt more comfortable letting someone else do a demonstration or go first, while I observed.
This happened to me during training week, when we were all asked to do a simulated timeout, practicing our script and doing it in real time, with someone pretending to be a child performing negative behaviors. Even though I knew that we were all expected to have a turn, I still waited until there were hardly any people left before I volunteered. However, once I got up there, I was able to crank through the timeout scrip and handle all the possible combinations of negative behaviors. Once I got through this, I wasn't nervous at all to handle a real timeout with the children and have even taken the lead on several timeouts we had in our group. I know that I will take this confidence and assertiveness from this experience; if I know the answer or have an opinion to give, I will be sure to volunteer it as soon as possible, instead of waiting for someone to ask me.
This internship has also helped me hone some of the skills in identifying social and behavioral problems, and assessing personality that I have learned in my Abnormal Psychology and Personality Theories courses. It is very interesting to transition from reading and learning about the different types of behavioral problems children can have and seeing them in action. I now feel very adept at pinpointing and predicting when a child will escalate based on past behaviors, diagnoses and other factors in the situation.
I have had to use these skills during my internship in order to avert verbal altercations between children that could possibly have escalated into physical fights. I have also had to analyze what will, and will not, set a child off in a certain setting. Even if I am not working with children in the future, I feel that this is a highly valuable skill. In any workplace, it is extremely important to be able to read and empathize with the people around you, whether they are coworkers or clients.