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.
The Changing Face of Autism.
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.
Heber Valley Camp 2017
Every year ScenicView heads up to Heber Valley Camp 30 miles east of SVA. Activities include a ropes course, canoeing and paddle boating, games, volleyball, and a fun-filled evening program. Take a look at some of the pictures below!
by Caity Liechty, MSW Intern
Do you ever feel like your jaw or back is incredibly sore or tense for no reason?
Have you ever found yourself feeling completely blindsided by anger or sadness or anxiety?
Do you ever feel like an emotion you’re experiencing is too big to deal with?
Many people with autism struggle to understand their emotions. They experience difficulty in:
He Is Excited for New Experiences
Written by Jared Stewart, Director of Education
Recently, a ScenicView student in his last year at Brigham Young University decided to apply to an internship program in Berlin, Germany. He had been to Germany before, and he expected everything to be the same this time. Of course, it wasn't. It was great to see how flexible he has learned to be, as he adjusted to his new circumstances, setting, and role. Instead of being anxious and overwhelmed, he is excited for new experiences and ready for new challenges.
One More Set
Written by Lindsey Giles, Health & Fitness Coordinator
Previously when *Mike would get upset about something he would walk out of class and not return. This past week while working on finishing a set of exercises I congratulated him on only having one more set of that particular exercise left. Once he completed the set he thought he was done with working out for the day. I let him know we still had other exercises to complete to finish the workout. This upset him and he started to walk out of the room. I kindly let him know he could take five minutes to calm down and then he would need to come back if he wanted to be marked present for class that day. Less than a minute later he came back and let me know that the reason he was upset was that he thought he had finished his workout when I told him "one more set". We agreed it was a misunderstanding and he got back to work. When there was about 5-10 minutes left in class he said he didn't want to finish and was tired and again started to walk out. I reminded him that we still had class time left and if he left now he wouldn't have been here for all of class so would need to be marked tardy. He was given the choice to leave early and be marked tardy, stay and finish the weight lifting exercises, or stay and get on the treadmill. He chose to stay and finish his workout time on the treadmill. I know Mike has been working on being present for class and he really worked hard on accomplishing that this particular one on one session.
*Name has been changed
Written by Elein Sutherland, Recreation Therapist/Service Coordinator
*Peter has severe anxiety regarding women and dating. When he first entered the relationships class, he had a melt down and refused to continue. He continued anyway and was often positive and engaging in class. For the relationships class, we have a group date at the end of the term where they practice the skills they've learned in class. They are required to ask a date of their choice to this date. Peter was anxious about this activity and adamant that he would not attend.
We Have Seen a Change
Written by Felicia Nielson, Service Coordinator
Becoming independent with transportation is something that *David has discussed in length with his team since he started SVA. He expressed a desire to be independent in this area but was very resistant to taking the bus. He didn't want to talk about riding the bus with his team and he had a difficult time even discussing what an experience on the bus might involve. Over the past few months we have seen a change in David in this area. When he accepted an internship through Intermountain HealthCare, we explained that he will need to begin taking the bus either to the internship or back to SVA.
Eventually, working up to taking the bus as his only form of transportation to and from his internship. David expressed some resistance but agreed to take the bus with me and practice the route he would be taking. After taking the bus one time with me, David said that he felt confident enough to begin taking the bus to his internship on his own and has done that every day since. His mother was very excited to hear that he took the bus and is beginning to feel confidant with independent transportation. Since beginning as a student at SVA, David has reached goals that he originally didn't think he could reach. With support of staff and his family, he earned his high school diploma, improved work skills enough to be a top candidate for the internship at IHC, and is becoming independent with transportation. He is on his way to graduating from SVA within the year.
*Name has been changed
It Helps Her Feel Calm
Jenna Higgins, Recreation Therapy Intern
Belle* loves the sensory room every time she is able to go in there. For class last week, I had her go into the sensory room for 15 minutes at the beginning to help her relax and take time to focus on herself. When I went back to get her, she came out with a huge smile on her face and said, 'that felt really good.' We then proceeded to talk about how much she enjoys the room and why it helps her feel calm. She told me her favorite object in there were the sparkly glitter wands. When she puts them upside down the glitter moves up and down the wand, and 'it is cool to watch because it is free to move however it wants.' She always looks forward to her time in the sensory room and wants to go every class period because she enjoys it so much and it makes her feel better.
*Name has been changed
Written by Joanna Posey, Teacher
Did you know we have an Animal Therapy class at ScenicView Academy? It is truly changing lives! Recently, the students learned how animals express their emotions, especially fear, and how we can teach our animals how to reduce that fear. Therapy teams Jill and Lucy (Standard Poodle) along with Maureen and Gus (Golden Retriever) with Debbie and Thomas (Sheltie) interacted as Thomas showed how fearful he was around people and other animals that could be seen in his body language. Social interventions were used to reduce Thomas' fear. People have the same emotions, including fear. Through similar interventions, students can reduce their fear, as well.
Dan, Previous Student
I am currently employed full time in Arizona for a construction company, and part of my job requires me to have contact with city and county offices. Recently, a staff member at one of these offices was very rude and short with me. I walked away and realized I handled that situation very professionally and well and I did not let the other person’s behavior affect me. I was able to do this because of the many skills I learned at ScenicView Academy. I am proud of myself that I can handle tough situations appropriately. Thank you ScenicView Academy for helping me get confidence in myself, learn appropriate social and work skills, and learn how not to react to others who behave inappropriately.
Student Success: A 180 Turn
Amber Lynn Stoppel, Case Manager
I started working with a particular student about a year and a half ago. I had been told by his previous Case Manager that he stays out of trouble and goes to work and class, but doesn't utilize a lot of ScenicView resources and doesn't come to much programming. He has been living at ScenicView for a long time and despite amazing work with his multiple teams at ScenicView, has had very little internal motivation to move out. When I first spoke with this student about moving out, he responded with something to the effect of, "Why would I leave ScenicView, the rent here is great and I get food here for cheap. Unless I can find something out there for the same price, I don't see why I should leave." After working with the student and the rest of his team we slowly got him to understand why staying was not only not an option, but also not helpful to him.
ScenicView Academy Has Been Busy!
The past several months have been extremely busy for ScenicView Academy is we work toward better connecting to the community. Take a look at the list below– it’s quite amazing:
On May 2nd, 2016, the Salt Lake Public Library hosted a showing of Losing Ground, followed by a panel discussion. Both the movie and the panel included a strong ScenicView angle. Losing Ground is a short documentary film by Shannalee Otanez about how families access services for their children with Autism. The film explores the experiences, hardships, and celebrations families encounter as they advocate for their children, and takes a look at the long-term outcomes that face adults on the spectrum. The film features an interview with Dr. Temple Grandin, but a much longer interview with ScenicView’s own Taylor Luna, who powerfully shares her personal journey with ASD, and her struggles to receive diagnosis and treatment. She also speaks at length about how much ScenicView Academy has helped her, and several SVA students make non-speaking appearances. After the film, Taylor participated in the panel discussion with parents from the film as well as local service providers including SVA’s Director of Education, Jared Stewart. She did a tremendous job fielding questions from the audience, and representing herself and the school. Below is the trailer for the film, and you can listen to Taylor's radio appearance here.
Losing Ground Trailer from Shannalee Otanez on Vimeo.
Joe A. : "I remember mostly Ryan Hawks' crazy antics at Heber valley. Every Heber valley was amazing due to wonderful planning done by recreation therapy. I remember one Heber valley trip we arrived and there was a lot of extra wood around the campsite so we each picked up the longest stick we could find and started quoting lord of the rings saying: YOU SHALL NOT PASS! I will never forget that."
The Black Belt Tests of Life
Written by Aaron Ridenour, Psychotherapist
Confidence. Determination. Honor.
Most people probably wouldn’t ever want to experience a two plus hour black belt test. Why would they? It involves a lot of memorization, sweating, breaking boards, fatigue, and at one point or another, someone is trying to punch or kick you in the face. Oh yeah, and while you’re doing this, everyone is watching you--and only you. You are in the spotlight for over two hours. Not exactly anyone’s definition of a good time. Now at this point, if your anxiety isn’t already heightened, let’s throw in another component:
BreeAnna Fletcher, Recreation Therapy Intern
I take a student rock climbing every week. She is getting to a point where the routes she is climbing are really stretching her abilities.
At one point while climbing a difficult route, the student stopped climbing and said, "There's nothing to hold on to." I tried to help her come up with new creative solutions to climb a little higher. This made me think of the empowerment statement, "I can do hard things." She got a little higher on the wall, but when she still struggled she asked to come down.
Ryan Hawks, Creative Development
I’ve walked down the lower hall of ScenicView from the west entrance to the atrium hundreds of times. But other day, around mid afternoon, as I was walking down the left side of the hall, I stopped as I noticed a giant rainbow on the tiled floor 15 feet in front of me. In my 6 years at ScenicView, I don’t recall having seen such a rainbow there before. The spectrum of colors were due to light reflecting from the glass on the second floor within the atrium down the hall.
What surprised me more was when I walked forward several feet and noticed the rainbow was gone. I took several steps back, and sure enough, there it was again. I then took several steps to the right side of the hall and was once again surprised to see the rainbow had yet again disappeared.
Written by Marty Matheson, Executive Director
I love when all of SVA students and staff get together for an activity. I love the Heber Valley Campouts, and love when we are all playing games in the pavilion and when we have our evening programs. I love our clean up/work days - cleaning inside and out of SVA, and at the Hale Theater.
Written by Carolee & Craig, Parents
We have many positive memories at SVA. The first one happened on our first visit with Doug. He met with us, talked about the school, its programs, its purpose, took us on a tour, answered our questions, relieved our concerns, and listened to our sons and their questions. He was patient, positive and encouraging. This was the first time, we as parents, had hope that our boys could have a positive experience and learn the skills they needed in order to reach their potential. We tried at home but some things need to be learned in a different environment. They would have the professional help as well as the peer group experience. We left that first visit with excited boys and with a new hope in our hearts that our sons might have the opportunity to realize their own dreams. It seemed almost too good to be true. It has been an answer to these parents prayers.
What a great start to a month of Autism! Several of our staff had the opportunity to meet Temple Grandin at the Generations Conference in Salt Lake. Temple has been one of the foremost advocates for teaching the public about how autism can change the world and has bettered her life by helping her to see the world different. Thank you for your great example Temple!
Join us during the month of autism for insights, quotes, and experiences regarding autism.
#30daysofAutism #AutismAwareness #lightitupblue #autism
An Aha Moment
Debbie Carr, a national educator for Pet Partners and the Executive Director of Therapy Animals of Utah, and I, a special educator at ScenicView Academy, went to the international LDA Conference in Orlando, Florida, primarily to present our work in 4 different areas in partnering nationally registered therapy animals to facilitate emotional regulation, social responsiveness, and personal responsibility. Prior to the session, Debbie had called for two national registered Pet Partner teams to be at our session. Mayhem and Dudley came. The attendees learned why we chose Pet Partner animal/handler teams to work with at ScenicView.
It was an aha moment for the attendees to learn why we developed our curricula, how we developed it, and what we are doing to monitoring and measure student progress. Our presentation promoted new, innovative ideas in successfully working with post-secondary students with autism and learning disabilities who are transitioning into society. The presentation was well-received. Our topic: How therapy animals can facilitate employability skills in working with students with autism and learning disabilities.
Remember Your Strengths First
Written by Whitney Clayton, Case Management Intern
During our coaching session, I could tell that my student was getting a little overwhelmed with the topic we were discussing and started to feel bad about himself. I grabbed the Empowerment statement card and told him to read them out loud to me.
Black History Month at SVA
Written by Jared Stewart, Education Unit Manager
ScenicView's annual Black History Month celebration has passed, but we'd like to thank everyone who helped make it a huge success! This year, the focus of the weekly assemblies was on SVA's Empowerment Statements.
Emily Uasila'a shared poetry and points from the life of Pulitzer Prize winner Maya Angelou, who taught us to "find joy in the journey", and showed that "I am worthy of respect and connection".