As bubbles and laughter fill the air, I reflect on the fact that not many people get to see some of the leading experts in their field at play alongside our other valued colleagues. But they are not just having fun because they need to let their hair down – they are learning the principles of ADOS.
I am an ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) trainer, and for the past six years my colleague, Dr Mark Lovell (Consultant Psychiatrist), and I have been working together to train a wide range of health professionals to administer ADOS – regarded internationally as the gold standard in assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This semi-structured assessment uses play and conversation to evaluate communication, social interaction and the play skills of people suspected of having ASD. ADOS can be used across a range of age groups starting from 12 months, and for people at different developmental stages and language abilities. Dr Lovell and I have run our training courses for the National Health Service and Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health in the UK, and for health professionals in Dubai.
I enjoy every minute of my time spent as an ADOS trainer and it is very much a rewarding role. I have the unique opportunity to see professionals with various jobs and who are at different points in their careers, learning not only alongside each other but also from each other.
Everyone who comes for the training starts as a novice – whatever their background or the level they are at in their career. So in a typical training session there could be newly qualified Nurses learning alongside Consultants and Team Managers. We also typically have a good mix of different health professionals, such as Speech Language Therapists, Nurses, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Paediatricians. I am fascinated by watching the relationships between these diverse trainees develop as they share knowledge, experience and professional contacts, and in some cases, forge genuine friendships.
Despite their different backgrounds, these trainees all start the sessions with the same anxieties, but happily over time we can see how those initial worries start to dissipate as they become more familiar with the administration of ADOS. Our trainees typically experience peaks and troughs throughout their training as each module we introduce sets them a new challenge to overcome. It is fulfilling to see them work to master each task we set them.
On a more fun level, play is a huge part of ADOS and it is not many people who can say they have watched prominent health professionals enjoy playing with bubbles, foam darts, and cause and effect toys. I even get to spot those with a hidden talent for the stage as they role-play ADOS administration.
Best of all in my role in delivering as an ADOS trainer is knowing everyone will leave the course with a practical skill they can apply to clinical practice and research. We keep in touch with ADOS trainees through ongoing supervision arrangements, and when we receive their coursework submissions it is fulfilling to see that they have now developed into competent ‘ADOS-ers.’