FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANDERSON CENTER FOR AUTISM ADOPTS NEW MISSION, VISION AND VALUES WITH EMPHASIS ON AN INDIVIDUAL’S QUALITY OF LIFE
It is not a small matter for an organization the size of Anderson Center for Autism to change the focus of their mission, vision and values. As Patrick Paul, Anderson’s COO, puts it, “it takes a great deal of thought and consideration by many of our stakeholders to make a change like this. It all began with an effort to see if there was a way to measure the quality of life of individuals with autism, whether children or adults, and the philosophical shift grew from there.” Paul is referring to the adoption by Anderson of a mission statement that is short, simple and to the point: “Optimizing the Quality of Life for Individuals with Autism.”
It sounds straightforward but when the individuals have limited abilities to verbalize their feelings and thoughts, establishing what their quality of life might be, becomes much more challenging. Dr. Sudi Kash, Chief Clinical Officer at Anderson Center for Autism, has more than 25 years of experience as a clinician working with individuals with developmental disabilities, and broad expertise in conducting diagnostic evaluations and exploring research opportunities. Wishing to find a means of measuring quality of life among the individuals in Anderson programs – many with profound or severe intellectual challenges – she spread her net wide, eventually finding the answer she was looking for at the Institute for Community Involvement at University of Salamanca in Spain where they have developed the San Martin Scale. The San Martin Scale uses eight domains in which quality of life is measured: Self Determination, Physical Well-Being, Rights (to respect, dignity and privacy), Social Inclusion, Emotional Well- Being, Material Well-Being, Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationships.
Dr. Kash explains: “ As we began evaluating each individual against this scale, it became clear that Anderson’s philosophy of LIFELONG LEARNINGSM is an important part of creating a life of quality for the individuals we serve. As we looked more deeply into the idea of Quality of Life, it began to permeate all of our thinking in regard to our mission, vision and values.”
Eliza Bozenski, Director of the Anderson Foundation for Autism, said that the new vision for Anderson flowed naturally from this new life-enhancing philosophy. “It is a profound paradigm shift throughout the organization. It affects everything, from staff to individual, from individual to individual, the way we act, the way we communicate with the individuals we serve. The results are positive and so encouraging. We like to say that these enriching values are at the heart and soul of our 800 plus employees.”
Jonah F. is an example of how “Quality of Life” is affecting the individual at Anderson Center for Autism. Jonah, 32, is a participant in Anderson’s Adult Programs. He felt that he would like to move to a different residence, one where he knew there were people he liked. He expressed his wish to Nathan Briggs, Coordinator of Adult Residential Services. Briggs explained that there was not a space available at the time, but it would be kept in mind. When a place opened up, Jonah was asked to carefully consider if this was what he wanted, and why he wanted it. Jonah said that “I wanted to better myself. To be in a place where I could have Home Alone time.” This type of experience is part of the path towards independent living within the community. Jonah was able to transfer to the residence of his choice, where he has enjoyed greater responsibility and has had his first Home Alone experience.” Nathan Briggs reported that Jonah used his Home Alone time to voluntarily wash the floors. Jonah says what Quality of Life means to him, “I felt it was time for a change, to increase my independence.”
Anderson Center for Autism is committed to providing similar growth experiences and opportunities for a life of quality to all the individuals they serve. One poster that appears throughout the organization says it all: “I’ve optimized someone’s quality of life today. Ask me how!” For more information about Anderson’s Quality of Life initiative, visit: andersoncenterforautism.org/QofL