I love observing and learning about examples of great teamwork. I see many examples around me all the time where individuals are influencing for good a group of people. One such example has been demonstrated by one of our students, Conner Russon, who recently completed a successful internship at Utah Valley Hospital. With his permission, I share the following information along with a link of the front page article that appeared in the Provo Daily Herald newspaper: http://www.svacademy.org/vocationalpath.html
The maintenance crew that Conner worked with at IHC reported that Conner has impacted for good their whole team and he has helped them all enjoy their jobs more and feel happier at work. In fact, they have been pushing their administrators to come up with the funds to create a job for Conner. What a great compliment to Conner to have a team fighting for him because of the impact he has had on them. What would our teammates say about us? Would it be similar to what Conner’s teammates are saying about him? I’m grateful to Conner for what he is teaching us, and for the example he has demonstrated of the impact one person can have on a team. Recently I sat down with Conner to visit with him about his internship experience. Here are a few highlights of that interview:
Why did the maintenance crew you interned with like you so much?
I was always happy. I made a decision to always be happy. Sometimes I didn’t feel happy before I showed up for work but I chose to be happy once I got there.
Why did you choose to be happy at your internship?
It helps me feel better and not feel so worried and anxious. It helps me learn and do my job better. It helps the crew I work with feel better. All it takes is one person to be really happy and it helps everyone. The guys I worked with kept telling me they liked their jobs better after I got there. I’m glad I could help them.
What did you do to help you and your co-workers be happy?
I decided I wanted to make their day. I told them jokes and made them laugh. I tried to always have a smile and a good attitude. I made sure I was always doing my part. They made me a member of their team so I wanted to be the best team member I could be for them. I think I did a pretty great job, especially since they didn’t want me to leave and they fought to have me stay.
I started an Internship for my Social Work degree in 1978 on the Children’s Unit of the Utah State Hospital. I worked with many children that at that time were called Pervasive Developmental Disorder. These children had a plethora of problems and symptoms that caused interaction with them to range from pulling each word carefully from them to trying to contain them so that a treatment provider could get a word into the dialogue. I read the book Son-Rise by Barry Neil Kaufman I believe that was the first book I read where there was a person with Autism that had any level of speech. Son-Rise is the story of Raun Kaufman a young boy that was diagnosed as being extremely withdrawn. Of the six clinics where he received treatment only one diagnosed him as Autistic. Unlike Raun Kaufman many of the children I worked with were as I mentioned diagnosed as have Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Attempts to build relationships varied some children were able to interact and share emotions and describe feeling while others did not seem to have that capacity.
Flash forward to the 1990’s. The term Asperger Syndrome is now becoming prevalent in the mental health community. Children with diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome are becoming more prevalent. Controversy arises as to whether these children are a separate diagnosis from Autism, if so how is the difference determined. Many articles I have read have trouble with differentiating between High Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome.
Taking another leap forward to the 2013 publication of the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM 5. Here many diagnoses with similar traits are placed together in the Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. A few of the Diagnoses including Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified are now under this umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder.with severity given by adding level 1, 2 or 3 Level 1 needing the least structure and accommodations to Level 3 which requires more structure and accommodations.
With the changes in the diagnostic criteria and more facilities diagnosing there has been a dramatic increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The question remains, is there an increase in the rate of Autism or is it an increased awareness. I suspect that it is both. The Diagnostic Criteria have accepted more individuals to be treated for Autism. As more families and schools looked for the best service for their family member or student, the diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorder fit not only the symptoms but needs of the students. So the remarkable increase in the rate of autism over the past 20 years.
Another source of the increase is the number of adults being diagnosed with autism. In the 70’s and 80’s while working at the State Hospital there were no new diagnosis of autism for adults. In fact if a child diagnosed with autism matured into the adult service it was likely the diagnosis would not have followed him to that system. Today there are many people with a diagnosis of ASD that would have been diagnosed as several different diagnoses including Inadequate Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, Mood Disorder, or even Bipolar Disorder. These adults now with the proper diagnosis can receive the proper treatment.