This article was contributed by Kari Johnston, ASNC Director of Services.
Each fall, the Autism Society of North Carolina has the privilege of celebrating the amazing work that our Direct Support Professionals do every day, providing crucial support and opportunities for individuals with autism. We do this in a few ways. During our celebration of Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, our regional services offices found large and small ways to thank these important people for their dedication to the people they serve, ranging from morning donuts and breakfast buffets, to a mini-carnival complete with food, activities, and game booths.
This year, ASNC also was pleased to send one of our Community Skills Instructors, who was nominated by her supervisors, to a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge to participate in a Direct Support Professional Appreciation event held by the NC Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. Becky Buchanan of Asheville was selected to attend this event in recognition of her exemplary dedication to and work with those she supports. Becky and her family were treated to nationally recognized speakers, waterpark fun, and a great opportunity to network with other direct support professionals.
Finally, this marks the 10th year that we are honoring one direct support Direct Support Professional with the John and Claudia Roman Direct Service Award for outstanding commitment to individuals with autism and their families. The Roman Award, a cash award of $1,000, was endowed by Lori and Gregg Ireland to honor Christine Roman, the direct service professional who worked with their son, Vinnie. It was named for her parents, John and Claudia Roman. This year, we congratulate Jennifer Dixon of Raleigh for being named this year’s Roman Award recipient. Jennifer was nominated by the Coleman family for exhibiting dedication that “goes beyond the expectations of her role every single day” throughout the past 2½ years of supporting their daughter.
In her nomination, Cristi Coleman shared that Jennifer, who has two of her own daughters, often refers to Cristi’s daughter as her “third daughter.” She said, “We never have to worry about her safety or well-being” and described how Jennifer enables her daughter not only to achieve the goals that they have set with their daughter, but to exceed them with the support that she provides. Cristi said Jennifer regularly sets aside her own plans, without mentioning them, to give their family needed respite. She went on to say that Jennifer regularly does things for the family that are not part of her paid hours or responsibility. “For example, she booked tickets to see a play that was open for special needs individuals. She told me that she and [my daughter] were having a date that night, and my husband and I could have a free night to ourselves. That really means a lot … and was something extra she did out of her own heart.”
Jennifer puts a great deal of effort into finding opportunities in the community for both enjoyment and personal growth for Cristi’s daughter, who “looks forward to this time and enjoys the many different activities they do,” Cristi said. Jennifer ensures that she has the ability to make her own choices and “gives her a voice.”
We are thrilled to honor Jennifer and would also like to express our gratitude for the passion and commitment exhibited by each and every dedicated person that we are fortunate to have supporting individuals and families through the Autism Society of North Carolina.Tags: autism, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorders, autism support, direct support professional, Roman Award