Forget about the plan for the day. Something is wrong with Jay’s ankle and he’s struggling to walk. You think he is in pain, but he can’t tell you. He has severe autism. A walk across the yard on a good day is stressful; a meal in a familiar restaurant is a challenge; a trip to the ER is unthinkable……….yet, this is the new plan, and as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) you are prepared for it!
DSPs (direct support professionals) face challenges like this every day. They are Spurwink’s frontline employees with our adult consumers and they are champions. Spurwink’s Adult Program employs approximately 90 DSPs who provide support to individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism in their homes and communities. They work mornings, afternoons, evenings, weekends and holidays – they are there when the 9-5 gang has hung up their hats and gone home. They are mentors and role models who provide care and support, and assist individuals to live engaged lives as independently as possible.
I feel very fortunate to have the caliber of DSPs that we have in the adult program. Many have worked with the same individuals for 5-10 years, and several, including therapeutic couples, are approaching 15-20 years on the job. But to label it a ‘job’ is probably shortchanging what the experience is. I think for many, it is more of a calling. And it’s this calling and relationship with our adult consumers that has changed many lives.
For the last seven years, the U.S. Senate has proclaimed one week in September as Direct Support Professionals Week, and Maine’s governors have issued similar proclamations. This year, DSP week begins on September 13th. We sincerely thank the DSPs in the Adult Program and all other direct care staff at Spurwink for the care, hope, and opportunities they provide for Spurwink clients. We want to especially acknowledge them during the week of September 13, National Direct Support Professionals Week. We couldn’t do this work without you.
By Sue Murphy, B.S.
Spurwink Sr. Director Adult Program