The most important job in agencies that provide service for people with disabilities is not Directors of Departments, Executives, HR, and or Finance; although administrative staff does provide an important role, the DSP (Direct Support Professional) has the most important role. When asking a few people what role does a DSP participate in one’s life; there is not just one answer.

Sure a DSP helps assist individuals with meals, medications, doctor’s appointments, finances, jobs, achieving IHP Goals, and daily life routines. A DSP helps assist with the basic needs of service recipient. What about the need for human interactions, having a friend in some cases a family, providing loving and caring environment, building trust, confidence, showing individual’s dignity, respect and integrity, providing personal care, seeing people with disabilities at their most vulnerable state; even the service recipient with the toughest exterior. As simple as making a meal; knowing what the individual’s favorite dish or what not to make. DSP learns how to bring out a smile and laughter, when someone is having a tough day or knows when to give that person space. DSP knows what an individual enjoy during recreational time, maybe as simple as watching a TV show or going to a sports event or shopping. DSP knows how important it is for an individual to make their own choices as much as possible; but when a staff needs to help make a choice for a person, they know their likes and dislikes. DSP knows an individual just as they would know their own family. This is very evident when the individual favorite staff comes in to work a shift and the biggest smile appears on an individual’s face with such excitement. The trust that has been built from scratch you can see in both set of eyes (Staff and Service Recipient) just like old friends. The most important role here is, being that person that at any given time brings joy and gladness to the lives of service recipients and occasionally filling the void of family contact in certain particular instances and the instant gratification that comes along with that.

When asking a DSP what the most important aspect of their job is…they don’t say money or earning a paycheck…they say providing a caring compassionate environment, treating individual with respect and decency… “The individual’s we support, they are our extended family”. This is such gratitude, integrity and dignity that DSP demonstrate on a daily basis. The DSP is the heart of an agency. Here are some examples:

Sakree Tillman joined the Residential program as the Manager of Supported Living Program (SLP) July 23, 2014. As soon as taking up the leadership role as the manager of the SLP program, she was quick to assist an individual in the program to obtain employment. This individual has been out of work for almost two years. In addition, Sakree was able to gain the trust and respect from the individuals after losing staff members that were important to them. As a result, another individual served now allow staff to participate in receiving reports from doctors (going into the room with them). Sakree took the time to match staff and persons-served to help create person-centered supports, Sakree has open communication with family members and guardians. In addition, Sakree is a team player and will step in and provide coverage whenever there is a last minute call out. Sakree continues to ensure his individuals are receiving best quality of life.

The Teacher Assistants at the Developmental Daycare and Preschool at the Jerry Davis Center for Children and Families exhibit amazing strength and flexibility! They are able to be supportive and encouraging to the children in one moment, distract and re-direct the next moment, and sing songs and play games the next. Their energy is solely directed at the children and ensuring their growth and development.

Jess Peyser is the Night Director at Camp Jotoni. During her time at camp, she worked with campers to adapt the programs so all campers, regardless of ability, were able to participate and enjoy themselves, while leading staff and campers at the same time. Often ‘sleepover’ camp is the first away from home experience for our campers, and Jess made sure all of our campers where comfortable and had a great camp experience.
Matt Pribula gave 110% throughout the entire summer. He volunteered to work with campers who exhibited challenging behaviors and was very successful in ensuring those campers had a quality camp experience.

Crystal Condit recently became the Respite Coordinator for the Saturday Respite Program. She has shown great initiative in coordinating the program. She works closely with families to ensure open communication and engages the students in activities that meet each child’s unique needs.

Shavonne Stick starts each day with an idea of how best to keep person served happy while making a difference. This year she surveyed the consumers looking into their interests for community outings and was able to plan and accommodate day trips. The day trips were to Keansburg Beach and amusement park, 4-H fair, afternoon coffee breaks, and she held a create your own sundae while at work activity. Shavonne displays a very high level of care when interacting with ALL consumers served within our agency. She consistently goes above and beyond the requirements of her position as long as the consumer’s interest is represented.