I completed an internship program at First Home Care in Portsmouth, Virginia. I worked in Day Support Treatment for Autism Adults. During the program, I trained to work with professional psychologists and participate in assessment processes. They guide people with autism and implement assessments. I participated in weekly seminars in which lectors presented theoretical, historical, and medical aspects of the disorder. The program gave me opportunities to put theoretical knowledge into practice and enhance my professional skills. The lectures were combined with the examination of different developmental abilities and focused on neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, and other fields.
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The term autism has gotten more attention in recent years. However, this phenomenon has a long history. The term was used for the first time at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the time, psychiatrists believed that autism was a type of schizophrenia. Afterward, it was described as a separate disorder. In the 1950s, researchers conducted studies to find the underlying cause for this medical condition. Initially, they concluded that the problem might be caused by the child’s mother’s behaviors, though subsequently, this theory was refuted. In the 1960s and 1970s, medical specialists began to apply aversion therapy. The therapy was focused on behavioral patterns and trained people with autism to act appropriately by means of different punishments. Also, some other therapies involved the use of LSD as a treatment for the disorder. In the 1980s, autism became a completely separate disease and got its own category for diagnosis.
I also learned about characteristics that might be seen in people with autism while completing the internship program. The disorder is characterized by specific behavioral patterns, problems related to social interaction, and sensory sensitivities. Some characteristics are common among all artists, but others are seen less frequently. People on the spectrum have difficulties with responding to their environment, which manifests itself in socially odd behaviors. Such individuals cannot effectively communicate their feelings and handle problematic situations. One of the most effective methods to help autists is to occupy their time with routines so they can learn some repetitive behaviors. It reduces uncertainty and promotes the predictability of their environments. Another problem related to people on the spectrum is their inability to build and maintain relationships. The lectures brought to light a new insight that confirmed that people with autism cannot properly respond to different forms of communication, for example, facial expressions, gestures, or eye contact. This problem takes place because autists are unable to comprehend other people’s needs and wants. Therefore, they often cannot participate in various activities with others. That is why people on the spectrum might look unfriendly and avoid the interaction. In addition, some of the people with autism exhibit seriously impaired speech or are unable to speak at all. For this reason, they might repeat phrases after their communication partners or ask similar questions several times.
There are several core values that the program helped to develop. The theoretical basis that I acquired during the internship promoted personal development and excellence in caring for people on the spectrum. Also, I assisted in developing social skills in people with autism. For example, I taught them how to make a purchase at a store. This experience revealed the importance of such values as responsible stewardship, respect, and community. Finally, the program itself cultivated moral principles that enhanced integrity. Therefore, the internship was a highly important experience that helped me improve my personal and vocational skills.