Featured Autism Specialist: Walter S. Knauff

Walter S. Knauff, M.Ed, NBCT, CAS, LCSW-C
Clinical Social Worker, Special Educator

City/State:          Silver Spring, MD                             

School/ Organizations:  Private psychotherapy practice; Autism Resource Services, Silver Spring International Middle School (Montgomery County Public Schools)

1) How has earning the Certified Autism Specialist been meaningful and satisfying?

I am proud to be acknowledged by IBCCES as a Certified Autism Specialist. It means a great deal to me to be formally recognized for the significant investments of time and energy I have made to hone my craft as both a clinician and an educator. The certification adds an extra indicator of confidence for those with whom I collaborate, be they families, clients, school system colleagues and administrators, or other healthcare providers.  I strive for excellence in my service to people on the autism spectrum and their families, and this esteemed credential validates my efforts in this regard.

2) How has the CAS credential affected your professional growth?

Earning the CAS credential has highlighted to my colleagues and those I serve – my clients, students, and families – my commitment to continuously develop the knowledge and skills I need to maximize my effectiveness in serving people with Asperger’s syndrome and those who are high-functioning on the autism spectrum.

3) How has your CAS credential been a benefit to your district/ organization/ or employer?

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in independent practice, my CAS credential provides the assurance to parents seeking assistance for their children that I possess the training, skills, knowledge and experience to provide high-quality, effective treatment. With many families using the internet to find a licensed professional, the endorsement provided by IBCCES as an independent international credentialing body helps me to establish my credibility and to differentiate myself as an autism specialist.

As co-creator of Autism Resource Services (ARS) at Silver Spring International Middle School, my CAS credential represents to all stakeholders – administrators, colleagues, parents, and students – my commitment to continuously grow, refine, and improve my skills as a Special Educator. In its first year, our Autism Resource Services team at my school was selected by the Exceptional Needs Executive Committee of the countywide Council of Parent-Teacher Associations as an Outstanding Service provider. We are a model service for others.  My team members and administrators appreciate the prestige that the CAS recognition brings to our school and service. I strive each successive year with my team members to continuously grow and develop the range and quality of instruction and support we provide our students.

4) How do you like to be recognized, acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done?

I love knowing that I have made a positive difference in the life of a child, teen, or young adult – that I have been able to work with them to help bring out their strengths and to give them tools to live well. In my clinical practice, families learn ways to improve the quality of life and harmony in their family unit.  My clients feel seen and heard and I treasure the appreciation I get in return for helping to facilitate that work. In the same way, I appreciate the heartfelt acknowledgements I receive from my students, families, and colleagues in the school system. I also enjoy the privilege of professing my accomplishments through the titles, certificates, licenses, and awards I have earned through years of hard work and dedication.

5) What is your greatest challenge or roadblock?

My greatest challenge, and one I am confident I share with many others, is dealing with the inordinate time and occasional injustices of bureaucratic red tape and burdensome paperwork requirements that take time and energy away from serving clients and students.

Another challenge is that there are not enough hours in the day! Between my full-time commitment to Autism Resource Services, managing all facets of running a successful solo psychotherapy practice, attending conferences and workshops, and staying abreast of the latest developments, my commitment to my work life takes up much of my time, especially during the school year. Even so, I make sure to balance as best I can my time with family, friends, and leisure pursuits.

6) What makes you feel like a valuable contributor?

As a seasoned professional, having my colleagues seek me out for guidance and support gives me great satisfaction. I am grateful for every opportunity I am given to help a colleague by sharing what I have learned through my many years of professional practice. I learned so much from my mentors along the way and am strongly motivated to “pay it forward.”

7) What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy getting to know each of my students and each of my clients as unique individuals with unique strengths and challenges. I have found the saying, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” to be so true – and I delight in finding creative ways to bring the smile of success to the face of each child, teen, and family I meet – to be present for those “light bulb” moments and know that I had something to do with them.

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