Real Life: My Internship Experience – Payton

Who: Payton Gillelandpicturewithbanner

University: University of Texas

Hometown: Georgetown, TX

Major: Psychology

Q: Where did you work and what did they have you doing?

A: I was a research assistant at the Child Development in Context Lab.

Q: What was the environment like there?

A: I usually worked at a computer with 2 or 3 other research assistants. There was a lab manager and two grad students overseeing the work. Families from the community would come in with their kids that are autistic. The grad students would work with the parents and the kids in a room and we videotaped them. I would be in charge of the controls. I studied both the child and the parents behaviors and we coded different behavioral and social cues.

Q: What is something you learned?

A: I learned how to code videos and enter data. Then I also learned about the many different cognitive behavioral treatments there are today. Our study that we were doing is called the Parent Training study and it’s a 12-week manual for parents with the goal of improving their autistic child’s social and behavioral skills. We were trying to prove that this one specific treatment works. The two grad students were teaching the parents what to do. I learned by watching the grad students how to effectively communicate with parents about implementing this plan. 

Q: Why did you decide to pursue this internship?

A: My younger sister Kylie is on the autism spectrum so it’s something I’ve always been passionate about. I’m already familiar with how to interact with kids with special needs and it’s something I care about. Seeing my sister grow up I want to create opportunities in educating kids with autism.

Q: Did this internship further enhance your passion to work with kids with autism?

A: Yes. I got to see improvements from this treatment over time, which encouraged me to want to pursue other ways to help kids with autism.

Q: Do you have any tips for college students who are looking for internships/jobs?

A: It helps to reach out to your professors about different opportunities in your field. I found this internship because of recommendations by my professor who directed me to psychology research labs.

Don’t forget to follow @careeronward on Instagram!


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