“What are some trends in your field? How are you preparing to address these trends?”
My current field is working as a teacher and counsellor with the developmentally disabled. I work with people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Asperger’s Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD), Down’s Syndrome, and many more conditions that are less well-known. I collaborate with social workers and/or other care-givers to set tangible and uniquely-tailored goals for each client to be worked on within the community. Goals range from social skills to behavior management to life skills to communication skills and beyond. These broad goals become more finely-tuned from general life skills, for example, to specific categories such as hygiene or traffic safety.
Oftentimes, clients will have multiple diagnoses, combining the likes of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or Tourettes Syndrome, for example, or mental health issues like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Bipolar Disorder with any of the aforementioned conditions. This has become progressively more commonplace over the past decade. Also, the amount of ASD and Asperger’s diagnoses in particular have increased exponentially within the same timeframe.
As an educator of sorts with these individuals stricken with multiple diagnoses, the first and foremost step in preparing to address this trend is to become further educated on these disorders myself. If, for example, I am preparing to meet a new client with Treacher Collins Syndrome or Floating-Harbor Syndrome (yes, that exists) in addition to ASD or FASD, I had better read up on it and learn what to expect. That, or run the risk of being significantly unprepared.
Furthermore, the trend of increased ASD and Asperger’s diagnoses being bestowed is not something I can address as a sole individual. The Canadian government grants $26,000 available per year to families of children under six years of age diagnosed with ASD for services, and $6,000 for those aged six and over. This applies for adults, as well. Currently, Asperger’s Syndrome remains officially placed on the Autism Spectrum in Canada, deemed as a sort of “high-functioning Autism” and therefore also qualifying for equal funding. In the coming year, however, when the fifth volume of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) becomes available in Canada, the funding for Asperger’s will likely become obsolete given that the DSM-5 no longer categorizes Asperger’s with ASD. (After over a decade since the DSM-4, the updated manual was released in the United States of America in May, 2013 [DSM-5 Development, 2013].) This is one way the Canadian government is addressing this trend of increased diagnoses.
Moreover, an increase in diagnoses means that more workers are needed to work with the diagnosed individuals. This is a trending issue that, in my opinion, is not being well-addressed in our country currently; funding cuts are commonplace and program terminations are prevalent. One way that organizations are dealing with this, however, is shortening contract durations. One organization I worked for went from one-year contracts with clients to six-month contracts in order to cope with their six-year program waitlist. While this is far from ideal, it is one way of addressing the current trend in the field.
DSM-5 Development. (2013, November). To the DSM-5 user community. Retrieved from