This summer, Ben Mittman ’18 is working at the New England Center for Children (NECC), a private, non-profit organization that accepts children with the most severe symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Mittman works at the main educational facility with other teachers, focusing on caring for the students and teaching them information and essential life skills that will help them become more independent and better transition into the community after graduation. His internship is supported by the Hamilton College Internship Fund, managed by the Career Center.
Mittman works with nine boys who have some of the more severe ASD symptoms at the Center and whose ages range from 14 to 20. One role among the many others he has, Mittman detailed, “Using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), I also attempt to redirect and shape the students’ repetitive and obsessive behaviors in order to have them engage in more appropriate and functionally significant behaviors.”
As NECC’s founder and CEO is Hamilton alumnus Vincent Strully ’69, Mittman found out about this summer opportunity on the Hill. After reading about the organization and hearing the experiences of other Hamilton students who have worked there, he became very interested. “I have a lot of experience working with children, and as a pre-med student interested in pediatrics and neurology, I wanted to gain some type of clinical experience that incorporated both of these interests in some way,” he added.
For Mittman, the most valuable part of this experience is his students. “It’s the personal connections I am developing with these students, many of whom have had extremely difficult childhoods checkered with abuse, neglect and rejection. I am constantly rewarded by the knowledge that I am spending my time helping a population that otherwise would be enduring the above inhumanities, and seeing them learn and progress and laugh inspires optimism and happiness in myself,” he explained. “It is always rewarding to be reminded of the innate resilience and positivity of children, no matter their developmental deficits or upsetting histories.”
After graduating from Hamilton, Mittman plans on attending medical school to pursue a dual MD/Ph.D. degree. He would like to combine his interests in neurology and pediatrics: “Whether that involves being a physician specifically for children with autism, or a general pediatric neurologist, or any other remains to be decided,” he remarked. “However, based on my level of enjoyment and satisfaction with this internship, I’m motivated to consider a practice which revolves around children with Autism, and it will remain a prominent choice as I move forward with my education.”