In order to promote National Orthodontic Health Month during October, the Academy of Orthodontic Assisting (AOA) created a contest for orthodontic assistants who receive its monthly newsletter. The contest was created to reward the assistant who has made the biggest impact on a patient during his or her career of assisting.

Contestants were asked to send a one-page, typed e-mail, and the winner was promised a gift card to treat themselves to something extra special and also a spotlight in AOS’s monthly newsletter. The winner was Lisa Jones, who is the Treatment Coordinator for Dr Rogers and Dr Andrews Orthodontics in Augusta, Ga. Here is her entry:

"As the treatment coordinator in a busy orthodontic practice, I have the opportunity not only to make the first impression but also to make each new patient feel ‘extra special’!

I have recently had the pleasure of seeing a few autistic and special-needs children with huge protrusion and lots of crowding. These great kids are extremely emotional and trusting another person does not come easy to them. Having a child with autism or special needs is like being on the fastest roller coaster at the fair that never stops, and when these kids are teased at school about their looks, it adds to the ride. I feel so lucky to earn the trust of each and every one of these kids. Not only is their first experience a comforting one, it sets the tone for each visit. Convincing each and every one of them that it is going to be O.K. is an amazing task.

"I had the cutest 11-year-old last week with Asperger’s Syndrome. He did not want anyone to touch him or look in his direction. His mother was upset that the kids are picking on him at school. He already has social development problems and gets really upset when being teased. This mother knew that getting him to agree with treatment was not going to be an easy task but was willing to try, since leaving his teeth as they were was setting him up for more ridicule.

"Having a child of my own with special needs, I saw this little 11-year-old boy as my own and gave him the biggest smile I had….hoping to win him over. After an awesome tour of the office and each assistant giving him a warm welcome, he agreed to let the doctor look in his mouth. By the end of the exam, I was able to get photos, x-rays, and most importantly, a big hug from him and his smiling mother. This little boy has a long road ahead of him, but he will be able to take each step with a beautiful smile. One compliment to him will be like 100 to us and 1,000 to his mother. He has just started his orthodontic treatment and so far loves coming to see us. The teasing at school has stopped and he loves showing off his braces."