In Their Own Words: Celebrating Direct Support Professionals

September 17, 2021
InVision News

Essential. Compassionate. Strong. Incredible. Determined. Advocates. Change-makers.

Ask anyone who knows DSPs how they would describe them, and they’d probably use words like these.

Throughout DSP Recognition Week, InVision shared countless messages of gratitude and support from the InVision family to our DSPs through remarkable stories of leadership, determination, and strength. We heard family members, colleagues, and the people we support share their experiences with DSPs and how their impact has been a positive force in their lives.

The perspectives of those who work closely with DSPs paint a vivid image of compassionate people dedicated to a life of service and sacrifice for people with disabilities. While it’s easy as outsiders looking in to recognize the type of effect DSPs have on the lives of the people they support, how do DSPs feel about the work they do?

DSPs are often too humble for their own good, not usually willing to discuss in overly praiseworthy terms the work they do every day for people with disabilities. They don’t see themselves as the heroes they are, working hard to support the people they serve. They simply find joy and reward in helping someone reach their highest potential.

In honor of DSP Recognition Week, we caught up with four InVision DSPs—Teresa Stevenson, DLJ Cromartie, Paul Clark, and Vicki Fountain—to hear in their own words what being a DSP means to them.

On the role of a DSP

At InVision, we’ve long known that DSPs create the foundation of the services we provide to people with disabilities, and their tenacious support is often the catalyst of progress among the people we serve. DSPs may not always outwardly admit how important they are to the people they serve, but they certainly recognize the differences they make on their lives:

“I bring safety and consistency to the person I support.”

                                                                                                          Teresa Stevenson

“We’re the ones who are there day in and day out with the [people we support]. We get to know these people very well, and we are the ones who have the best insight on how the person thinks, feels, and communicates... [W]e share this knowledge with the rest of the team and…family members to help create a team of support for the [person we support].
We are also the [one] that the [person we support] has in their life to go to with any ideas, thoughts, [or] concerns about themselves as far as their health and wellbeing [including] the quality of care they receive from their staff and team which gives us insight on how to [improve our services].”

                                                                                                             Paul Clark

“[We’re] on the frontlines.
It is my role to help the person I support to be as independent as possible.”

                                                                                                            Vicki Fountain

Vicki Fountain (right)

Building strong, effective relationships takes time, and DSPs know this best. Success doesn’t come overnight, but DSPs are committed to walking with the people they support on their journey.

On what they bring to the role of a DSP

Every DSP brings a different perspective to the role, but that’s one of their greatest assets. Just as no two people with disabilities are the same or experience the same challenges, neither are the DSPs who support them:

“I bring a loving and caring home environment to the [person] I support.”

                                                                                                             Teresa

“As a DSP who works in Signals, I hope I bring a judgement-free zone to the [people] I work with, because I truly believe it is not my place to judge them but to show them that they are not what they have done, they are so much more.”

                                                                                                             DLJ Cromartie

“I bring an open mind, a willingness to understand, and the drive to help, care, and go the extra mile even in small ways that contribute to much bigger, long-term successes.”

                                                                                                             Paul

“I feel that I bring to the job of being a DSP patience, kindness, encouragement, a listening ear…commitment, understanding, and honesty.”

                                                                                                             Vicki

DLJ Cromartie

It may be easy for people unfamiliar with DSPs to blanket them in a single description, but that couldn’t be further from reality. We applaud every DSP at InVision for the unique skills, perspectives, and experiences they bring to the job.

On what it means to be a DSP

Being a DSP is anything but easy. Part of DSP Recognition Week’s celebrations is an acknowledgement that while this job is incredibly rewarding, it can also be challenging at times. And yet, our DSPs face these challenges head-on to help the people they support build the independent lives they desire:

“Being a DSP to me means having a career that is rewarding. I get to help someone with their daily life skills; we don’t do it for them, but we do it with them.”

                                                                                                             Teresa

“In my 10 years as a DSP, I have grown so much as a human being. The compassion and the strength to listen more than I speak and to truly hear what someone is telling you not only through their mouth, but also through their actions and non-verbal cues.
Being a DSP has given me the best model to live by and I do every day that is: "It's not always about you, and don't take it personal". Once I learned that, both my job and my life got so much easier. Because we all tend to live in our own little bubble, once we can learn to see things through another's eyes, that's when you learn that this world is way bigger than just you.”

                                                                                                                DLJ

“Being a DSP to me means being the support and voice for a person who may or may not always be able to advocate for themselves.
[We’re] their ally and work to help them succeed their way. [We work] diligently and effectively with them, their team, and family even when it’s difficult and look out for their safety and well-being as you would for your own family and friends.”

                                                                                                                Paul

“Being a DSP to me means making a difference in a person’s life. Letting someone know that I can be trusted, that I'm honest, that I am here for them, that they can rely on me, that I will listen to them, and that I’ll be present for them. Being real with the person supported and coming from a place of true care and concern even when it is hard.”

                                                                                                                Vicki

Despite the challenges, it’s clear how rewarding the role of a DSP can be for them. DSPs create new opportunities for the people they support to succeed on their life journeys, and they know that sometimes even just a trusted listening ear can make a world of difference.

DSPs in a word

Throughout DSP Recognition Week, InVision built a dictionary of words used to describe DSPs. We knew it was a fool’s errand—after all, the role of a DSP is so complex, and each DSP has different experiences, so how could they possibly be described in a single word?

If anything, our experiment proved that DSPs live out our mission and bring us closer to our vision through their everyday actions. Each suggestion reminded us of the inherent strength and determination within each of our DSPs.

As for our four DSPs, they had their own thoughts:

“Indestructible.”

                                                                                                                 Teresa

“Supportive.”

                                                                                                                 DLJ

“Caring.”

                                                                                                                 Paul

“Present.”

                                                                                                                Vicki

And we couldn’t agree more.

InVision’s community partners are proud to support DSPs and the important work they do for people with disabilities. Thank you to Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Eastern Alliance Insurance for standing with our DSPs!

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