A Brock master’s student has been named volunteer of the year by a local organization dedicated to serving children and adults with special needs.
Naomi Johnson (BA ’13), who is working toward her master of arts in the Centre for Applied Disabilities Studies, was recognized by Bethesda Services for her work during the past year with the organization.
“Naomi is positive, hardworking and always eager to help out,” said Amanda Hendry of Bethesda Services. “She has been an asset to the team for the last year.”
The award came as a surprise to Johnson.
“I was really honoured to win the award,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of great people doing amazing things at Bethesda, and it is such a huge organization. I had no idea that there was a volunteer of the year award until I found out that I won, never mind that I was in the running.”
Johnson is working on her thesis about children with autism. However, she wanted to expand her experience working with people with disabilities, so she started volunteering with Bethesda’s residential treatment program for adults with challenging behaviours. She eventually turned the experience into the required practicum for her program but continued volunteering with Bethesda after that ended.
Johnson works with a behaviour therapist and behaviour analyst conducting assessments, writing behaviour plans, collecting, analyzing, and presenting data to the clinical team. She has also done staff training and treatment integrity.
The opportunities she had at Bethesda showed her how effective it can be to include biological, psychological, and sociological factors in a treatment plan.
“The biggest takeaway from my volunteer experience would probably be Bethesda’s emphasis on the biopsychosocial model of treatment. The way that Bethesda incorporates many different professionals into the treatment of their clients -doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, board-certified behaviour analysts – is very encouraging, as these professionals all have different perspectives,” she said.
“Having this additional experience has been great for my professional goals as it has allowed me to expand my knowledge and experience while working hands-on in the field in a role that I might not have been in had I been looking for a paid position.”
Johnson’s dedication stands out for Tricia Vause, professor in the Centre for Applied Disability Studies and Naomi’s thesis supervisor.
“Naomi has always demonstrated a tireless effort for reaching out and helping others,” Vause said. “These efforts have spanned across academic and clinical pursuits in helping children and adults with disabilities to reach their full potential.”