My name is Kelsey Smith and I am a junior from Denver, North Carolina majoring in Psychology with a minor in Hispanic Studies. I have spent a lot of my time at Carolina as a research assistant in Dr. Eva Telzer’s Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab, working on studies related to parent and peer influences on adolescent decision-making and attitudes. Though I enjoy doing research, I wanted to gain more clinical exposure, and The Gil Internship has allowed me to do just that. This semester, I have had the opportunity to intern at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD). The CIDD is a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities that provides clinical services, research, and training, one of few in the United States. This comprehensive center is home to several specialized clinics that provide diagnostic evaluation, consultation, and intervention/treatment to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. During my time at the CIDD, I have worked under the mentorship of clinical psychologists, Dr. Laura Hiruma and Dr. Jean Mankowski.
I discovered my passion for the field of psychology in my high school psychology class, but I had always known that I wanted to work in a helping profession, specifically with children and adolescents. Through various Psychology courses at UNC, I found the intersection of developmental and clinical psychology to be most fascinating. I am primarily interested in the environmental and neurological factors that contribute to healthy development or developmental disabilities. Though I know my interests, I have not quite decided on a specific career path to pursue in graduate school. Thankfully, The Gil Internship is helping me with this, as I am working on multidisciplinary teams of various professionals and graduate students at the CIDD.
As an intern at the CIDD, I have worked on the teams in the School Age Autism Clinic (SAAC), Preschool Assessment, Consultation, and Training (PACT) Clinic, and Behavioral Medicine Clinic, just a few of many that operate within the institute. Both the SAAC and PACT offer evaluations and consultation to determine whether or not a child meets criteria for autism spectrum disorder. I have had the opportunity to observe many of these appointments, which include parent interviews and various assessments. Some of the assessments I have become familiar with are the ADOS, which uses a series of tasks to diagnose autism, the DAS, a cognitive and achievement test, and the Leiter scale, an intelligence test. In addition to observing these assessments, I have also learned how to score several parent and teacher rating scales, such as the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC), and the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System (ABAS). While I am able to see diagnostic evaluations in these clinics, being part of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic has allowed me to observe more intervention. In this clinic, I have observed a great variety of developmental disorders, such as Prader Willi Sydrome, Trichotillomania, and Fragile X Syndrome. The clinic is focused on providing behavior and medication management services to individuals who have already been diagnosed with a disorder. In addition to being on these clinic teams this semester, I have also worked on intake referrals for the CIDD. This involves going through each referral to the institute, as well as the patients’ information and needs, to determine which clinic to send them to.
The Gil Internship has allowed me to apply what I have learned in my psychology courses to real cases, as well as gain further insight into graduate school programs and future career paths. I am incredibly grateful to have received this opportunity from Dr. Buzinski and Molly Corrigan, and truly appreciate all the work that they put into this program. I am also thankful for my mentors at the CIDD for allowing me to join their teams this semester. I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience.