As Coastal Center celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) this October, we’d like to share the perspective from a Direct Support Professional’s point of view. Direct Support Professionals (DSP’s) work side by side with people with disabilities, assisting them in a variety of places – at home, work, school, and within the community – so that they can be as independent as possible. DSP’s advocate for the people they serve, helping them to express their needs and goals in order for them to have the highest quality life they can have.
At Coastal Center, Direct Support Professionals play an important role in each of our departments, working with every ability level to empower the people we serve to learn the skills to have the most meaningful life possible. DSP’s in Day Habilitation assist clients in learning self-care skills for independence, community outings for inclusion, and onsite activities for daily enrichment. DSP’s in the Training Center hone the hard and soft skills of trainees so that they are fully equipped to begin their journey to meaningful employment. DSP’s in Community Employment Services coach people daily, weekly, and monthly as needed to ensure those we find integrated work for (and their employers) are fully satisfied.
We interviewed Regina, a Direct Support Professional at Coastal Center working as an Instructor in the Training Center, about what it means to her to be a DSP.
Why did you choose to work as a Direct Support Professional?
I chose to be a Direct Support Professional at CCDS because I am directly making an impact to the people with disabilities’ lives by being an advocate for them – as some of them are not capable of doing so.
How many years have you been a DSP at CCDS?
I have worked at CCDS as a DSP for four years and 9 months as a DSP.
What personality traits do you think somebody needs to be a great DSP?
Aside from being patient and dedicated, a DSP must have great intuitive skills to sense underlying issues behind people with disabilities, along with helping them as situations occur. In addition to that, a DSP should possess a calming nature and have the capacity to reduce stress by maintaining a calm atmosphere at work to avoid anxiety among individuals they work with.
Before becoming a DSP, did you have experience working with people with disabilities?
My background was an Elementary Special Ed Teacher here at Savannah Chatham County Public School System for 5 years before joining CCDS. Prior to that, I was a 10th grade Consumer Science Teacher back home in the Philippines.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a DSP?
The most rewarding aspect of being a DSP is seeing my people acquire and develop the necessary skills they need for them to function independently in the community. Also, when I see my people made a breakthrough – like when they finally get employed and fully integrated into the community.
What is the most important thing a DSP does?
The most important thing a DSP does is to make sure that the people they serve are being taken care of not just personally but emotionally and mentally as well.
Have you changed as a person because of working with people with disabilities?
I have worked with people with disabilities for almost 10 years . It has made me more patient and understanding of people’s behavior regardless of their ability levels.
Why are DSP’s important and necessary to people with disabilities?
Not just DSP’s, but all people who work around people with disabilities are important by ensuring they feel safe, secure and well taken care of.