September 11-17 is National Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week
When talking to DSPs at SOAR365, you’ll find it’s often the little things that matter most.
Sometimes it’s knowing you’re brightening a participant’s day. “As soon as she heard my voice when she arrived in the morning, she would rock in her chair, squealing with joy,” says Nancy Rezin, a DSP in Adult Day Support at Camp Baker, of a former participant. “The smallest gesture made her happy, from applying lotion to her hands, singing her a song, or handing her a toy to hold or bells to shake.”
“She loved music and we listened to Disney songs often. She was always so appreciative; it was a privilege to care for her.”
Other times, it’s seeing a participant bloom before your eyes! Jerri Vincent, also a DSP in Adult Day Support at Camp Baker, worked diligently with one participant on his vocabulary. Now, he expresses himself more easily.
“When he is greeted with ‘good morning,’ he says hi, smiles and waves back at the staff. When asked how is he feeling today? He replies ‘good’ with a smile.”
These rewarding moments make the hard work all worthwhile. And hard work it is!
“DSPS ARE THE HEART OF SOAR365 DAY AND RESPITE SERVICES. THEY MAKE EVERYTHING HAPPEN. THEY HAVE THE HARDEST JOBS AND DO IT ALL WITH A SMILE ON THEIR FACE. EACH LOCATION FUNCTIONS AS A FAMILY. THEY CELEBRATE EACH OTHER, LIFT EACH OTHER UP, AND HOLD EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE. I AM PROUD OF THEIR DEDICATION, PASSION, AND ABILITY TO GENUINELY CARE FOR PEOPLE.” – EMILY LEHMANN, ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT, DAY AND RESPITE SERVICES
What Do DSPs Do?
DSPs provide everyday assistance to people with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities, helping them with a wide variety of social, educational, and daily living skills. A DSP’s main goal is to improve their client’s ability to lead a fulfilling, independent life.
At SOAR365, DSPs help participants in Adult Day Support, Children & Youth, Summer Camp and Respite programs with a wide range of daily tasks, while encouraging exploration, independence and self-sufficiency. They focus on:
Physical needs – medication management, feeding, nutrition, exercise, therapy activities
Educational activities – daily life skills, academic goals, career training, community outings
Creativity and fun – art, music, board games, sports, videos and social interactions
You can find them leading cooking classes in Adult Day Support, organizing arts and crafts in our Children & Youth Program, teaching horseback riding at Summer Camp, and helping Respite program participants volunteer in the community.
DSPs build one-on-one relationships with participants and support them to achieve their goals. Lisa Coates, Director of Children & Youth Services, describes the role as “being a teacher, friend, advocate, and cheerleader, all while promoting self-determination.”
In addition to DSPs, each SOAR365 participant also has their very own case manager. Working closely with each participant’s caregivers, doctors, therapists, teachers, and more, case managers develop Individualized Service Plans (ISPs). These plans help DSPs develop a deep understanding of each participant’s likes, dislikes, goals and needs. It keeps each individual on track to achieve their objectives, while still having a lot of fun.
DSPs are also supported by our registered nurses for all medical needs, boosting the level of specialized care for our participants and increasing our DSPs confidence and peace of mind.
As Danny Kenyon, Director of Adult Day Support, explains, “In this organization, everyone in every department really focuses on working together for the greater mission of the organization and is always open to collaborating.”
Participatory decision making at SOAR365 also means that supervisors and directors value the input of DSPs. They are the experts in what works best for our participants, because they are working so closely with them each day. Whether making curriculum decisions or planning new policies, everyone’s voice is heard.
Compassionate and Committed
It truly takes a village to provide best-in-class care. And SOAR65’s DSPs are caregivers by nature.
Lisa Coates, Director of Children & Youth Services, explains that many of our DSPs are passionate about their work because they have either cared for family members with disabilities, worked in group homes or schools, or worked as a CNA or a 1:1 behavioral aide in the past.
“There’s a collective commitment, that enthusiasm. You can just feel it and sense it. Because they are seeing the impact they have and the gains the individuals are making from being consistent, having a routine and building those relationships with families and caregivers,” she adds.
That encouraging environment continues to build skills for growth.
“DSPs are encouraged to seek opportunities for professional development whether that be in house or externally, and it’s celebrated!” says Lisa. “It helps support them in their growth trajectory. Just feeling valued as a professional and being supported even more in their work that they do every day.”
Jerri agrees. “SOAR365 offers great benefits and gives you the opportunity to grow in your position. I feel welcome and staff are friendly. Working at SOAR365 seems like family,” she says.
“THEY HAVE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE STAFF. I HAVE NEVER WORKED AT A PLACE LIKE SOAR365 WHERE THE DIRECTOR KNOWS EVERY EMPLOYEE’S NAME.” – JERRI VINCENT, DSP IN ADULT DAY SUPPORT AT CAMP BAKER
The Heart of SOAR365
And that same individualized attention to staff carries over into person-centered programming that both participants and caregivers love.
“We offer a variety of activities, like swimming, movies, community activities, volunteering for Feedmore, day trips, horseback riding and canoeing. We offer more person-centered options for the activities they prefer; we engage in more activities with our participants, assisting them in making the choices they want,” explains Jerri.
“Our motto is ‘we keep the main thing the main thing’ and that’s our participants,” says Lisa.
And SOAR365 DSPs are key to providing a welcoming environment where each participant is seen and celebrated as an individual.
“What warms my heart is how my staff can look at the kids coming off the bus and know what kind of day they had at school. ‘We’ve seen this look before, we know what to do, he’s overloaded sensory wise, let him come in and sit down.’ They know how to differentiate on a whim and adapt.”
On behalf of all our staff, participants, and families, we want to give a heartfelt thank you to all of our SOAR65 DSPs!
Rashidi “Deon” Heron
And we also want to thank their dedicated assistant supervisors, supervisors and directors:
Desiree Anderson, Lisa Coates, Marsha Christian, Benita Davis, Danny Kenyon, Tasha Jones, Latashia McLeod, Latosha Otey, Sara Scibiur, Shalaven Shaw, Maralyn Warren and Patricia Williams.