My year 2013 in review
The year of 2013 has gone by fast. At Marshall University I achieved great extracurricular and academic achievements. Also, my career in the psychology field is coming along nicely. I still owe a huge thanks to the College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (CPSASD), a program offered by the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University (WVATC). Without their help through my college years, I do not think I would have achieved my accomplishments. I have moved back to District of Columbia with dad and am working in the metro area. Thanks to my generous dad and help from District of Columbia’s Tuition Assistance Grant, I graduated from Marshall University with zero debt!
While at Marshall University, I was the founding president of the Marshall University American Red Cross Club (www.Facebook.com/redcrossclubmu), established in February 2011, and the Secretary of Marshall University’s chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). The mission of SADD is “to provide students with the best prevention tools possible to deal with the issues of underage drinking, other drug use, impaired driving, and other destructive decisions.” Maintaining an active presence at the college level is difficult for SADD, as it is mostly geared toward high school students. I was recognized for my efforts and involvement with these two organizations and was nominated for and awarded the Outstanding Service to Marshall University award on Friday, May 3 by the Office of Student Affairs, presented by the Dean of Student Affairs and the University Provost. This award is among the highest non-academic awards Marshall University gives to a student.
In the area of academics, I wrote a paper titled “Bereavement and Autism: A Universal Event with Unique Challenges” for the 13th Annual Marshall University College of Liberal Arts Research and Creativity Conference, with the assistance of Associate Professor Keelon Hinton. I also presented the paper at the 22nd Annual Tri-State Psychology Conference at the University of Charleston in a plenary session. In October 2012 I met Scott Badesch, President of the Autism Society of America (ASA), whose son receives support from the CPSASD. He took an interest in my work on bereavement and autism and I met with him at his office in Bethesda, MD over Thanksgiving break; the paper I wrote was published in the ASA spring 2013 edition of the Autism Advocate (the flagship publication of the ASA with a readership of around 30,000) and I presented at the 44th Annual Autism Society National Conference in Pittsburgh in July. Also at the Autism Society Conference, I had the honor of presenting the Cathy Pratt Autism Professional of the Year Award to now-former WVATC Executive Director Dr. Barbara Becker-Cottrill, Ed.D., at the Saturday plenary session; I along with the CPSASD first graduate, Amy Goodman (co-director of Autism Now), presented the award. The article and conference presentations may be viewed at http://marshall.academia.edu/BrianWong.
Upon graduating from Marshall University, I worked part-time at Starbucks in North Chevy Chase, Maryland. Starbucks is a nice company to work for and partners who work at least 20 hours a week are eligible for health benefits as well as stock options; partners get a 10-minute break after the first two hours of work and a 30-minute break after four hours. One perk of working at Starbucks I miss is the weekly free pound of coffee. While at Starbucks, I interned in the psychiatric rehabilitation field at two agencies, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc. (PRS) in McLean, VA and Cornerstone Montgomery in Bethesda, MD.
The mission of PRS is to “provide skills training and supports so individuals living with mental illness, substance use disorders, mild intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, or any
combination of these achieve wellness, recovery, and community integration.” I was a Volunteer Group Facilitator in the Tysons Recovery Academy, a day program that promotes movement out of facility-based programs. I lead group-oriented, curriculum-based psycho-educational groups. I led two workshops on grief recovery for clients and staff, at the request of the program director of the Recovery Academy after the death of two clients and after reading my article in the Autism Advocate. My photo was posted on PRS’ Facebook page timeline on Wednesday, August 28 (https://www.facebook.com/prshope). One class I had the honor of teaching was “Grieving Mental Illness.” At PRS, I disclosed to the clients I taught that I have Asperger’s. One client told me that seeing how I overcame the challenges of AS, although not a mental illness, gave them hope in their own recovery from their mental illness.
At Cornerstone Montgomery, I was an intern in the Back to Work Program. The mission of Cornerstone Montgomery is to “empower people living with mental health and co-occurring substance use disorders to live, work, and integrate successfully within the community.” The Back to Work Program assists people who are recovering from mental health challenges to find and keep a job, following an evidence-based model of supported employment for people with severe mental illness. I gained experience with documentation, job development, and job coaching with supported employment specialists.
After experience in psychiatric rehabilitation, in October I decided that I was ready to seek paid employment in the field and instead felt comfortable working with adults with developmental and intellectual challenges.
In the beginning of November, I was hired as a Support Counselor by Jubilee Association of Maryland located in Kensington, MD. We “provide opportunities and support for adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to live in and enrich their community while fulfilling their personal, family, social, and spiritual needs.” As a support counselor I work with a group of people who live in supported living arrangements. One of my responsibilities is helping to develop and implement an annual plan of service, counseling and advising, and facilitating community inclusion and connection to services. I am in the Reaching Out Program which provides Community Supported Living Arrangements to those with Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger’s. The Program offers classes that help with social skills development, cooking skills, and physical activity. I am also teaching Cooking for Independence, a class in the Reaching Out Program. The cooking class helps teach clients basic cooking skills and cooking safety.
My work at Jubilee is still in progress. All direct support staff have required training to complete before taking on a full caseload. Some of the training involves Behavior Principles and Strategies (which includes how to handle physical altercations with clients), Person-Centered Planning, and transporting individuals with developmental and intellectual difficulties. Two of my supervisors read my article in the Autism Advocate and were impressed. I am also working with Dena Gassner, LMSW, (a member of the Autism Society’s Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism Advisors and well connected to the WVATC) on a pre-conference workshop for the next ASA National Conference in Indianapolis. The session will be on grief as it applies to receiving a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and grieving the death of a loved one, and will help fulfill continuing education credit requirements for those who need it.
I still hope to pursue my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. For now, I am working on building my experience for graduate school and to reinforce my interest and seriousness in the field.
With wishes for a happy Holiday Season and a happy new year,
Holiday Alumni newsletter update
Marshall University, May ’13 – B.A. Psychology and minor in Counseling (Huntington, WV)
The Perkiomen School ’09 – post-graduate (Pennsburg, PA)
The Lab School of Washington ’08 (Washington, DC)