115: "People are People" — Exploring Neurodiversity with Mark Rufino

Mark Rufino is a social worker and audio engineer who works with adults with developmental disabilities and their families. However, even the term "developmental disability" or "intellectual disability" is becoming a misnomer. Mark is part of a growing movement of people who believe it's time we upgrade our old way of thinking "that we need to fix you to fit into our society."

The term neurodiversity is growing in popularity, and implies that there is no “normal” way of thinking and “autistic” way of thinking, for example; we are all wired to do different things. I think you'll love this conversation around exploring what's behind behavior, Mark's emphasis on deeper listening (in surprising and novel ways), and his reference to a book that states "the opposite of anxiety is not calm, it’s trust.”

Check out full show notes from this episode with links to resources mentioned at PivotMethod.com/podcast/neurodiversity.

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Topics We Cover

  • How Mark became a social worker after major health complications in college, how it shaped his interest in social work

  • Seeing past disabilities: “People are people”

  • Intellectual disability (today’s term) includes cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, ADHD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

  • Mark's niche seems to be "The people that fell in the cracks, don’t fit into categories and boxes - I have a heart for people who are not getting services."

  • Pastor: “What about trying that in an underserved area?” Going into places where people don’t get services

  • Nurse who helped him after surgery, with a smile: “I hope you’re feeling better today"

  • Asks what’s behind the behavior - what were you trying to tell us?

  • Why he doesn’t want to be called a behavior therapist ("I can get you to do anything if the rewards are correct - it’s a valid way of treating things, but not my approach")

  • "Nothing happens for no reason" - we may not see the reason or understand it at the moment, but there is a reason.

  • Behavior is something that can be observed, is a product of the environment

  • Just trying to acknowledge what somebody is feeling, even if you’re wrong, is very powerful

  • From one of his trainings: Make an observation and ask a question

  • Most don’t like to be told what not to do, it’s more empowering to focus on what to do

  • Just having a diagnosis doesn’t say anything about who you are - I’ve met people who are givers and others who are takers with the same diagnosis

  • Who is this person? Not what are they doing? Shifting my perspective from what’s wrong with somebody

  • Example of a woman with OCD that found her calling restoring antique books (typically extremely high turnover rate) - she’s now been in the role 20 years

  • How Mark feels ADHD relates to Autism

  • There’s a right job for everybody, we have to do what we are wired to do - we’re fighting against the tide sometimes, be willing to change directions

  • On imposter syndrome and how to flip the perspective - “the day I stop learning is a terrible day”

  • Social work school about dealing with behavior: if you do more of what’s right, there’s less room to do the other things (strengths-based approach)

  • Action: accept that you made a mistake, make it into a learning experience

  • Be willing to say, “I don’t know” (example of the doctor he works with)

  • Uniquely Human book: "The opposite of anxiety is not calm, it’s trust” - your own body, your environment, the people around you.

Neurodiversity And Working With Adults With Intellectual Disabilities With Mark Rufino

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