Direct Support Professional: a formal name that doesn’t evoke the dedication and love that our hundreds of staff members show every day. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) carry many more titles; they are Community Skills Instructors, Employment Supports Instructors, General Instructors, Residential Instructors, Camp Counselors, and more. But even these names do not tell the true story of the critical support they provide.
Every day, DSPs work one-to-one with individuals with autism, teaching skill acquisition and supporting them in reaching their goals. They become trusted friends, natural supports, and honorary members of families. They are the backbone of our organization.
We value and respect DSPs every day, but each year we truly celebrate them during Direct Support Professional Recognition Week in September, this year the 11th through 17th. During that week, stay tuned to our social media to hear stories of the impact these caring and talented folks are making in lives across NC.
Each September, we also accept nominations for the John and Claudia Roman Direct Service Award. The annual award was endowed by Lori and Gregg Ireland to honor Christine Roman, the ASNC Direct Service Professional who worked with their son, Vinnie. It was named for her parents, John and Claudia Roman. Families who have a DSP from the Autism Society of North Carolina may obtain a nomination for this award by emailing Kathy Cockrell. Nominations will be accepted through Sept. 30.
Last year’s winner of the Roman Award was Clary Lamberton of Asheville. In previous years, we have honored Melissa Mulcahey (2014), Allen Cohen (2013), Tanya Ahner-Mejia (2012), Lori Sweeney (2011), and Emily Bennett (2010) with this award for their tireless dedication, their ability to go above and beyond, and making a real impact in the lives of individuals with ASD and their communities.
Listen to what some parents have said about their DSPs:
“It’s because of people like her that our kids are loved and accepted and our families are comforted.”
“Rather than just stick him in a job, check him off the list and move on, he considered what would be best for Alex in the long run.”
“Her calm approach has been so valuable in helping my son self-regulate.”
“She has tirelessly worked to ensure that he enjoys life to the fullest.”
The Autism Society of North Carolina employs hundreds of direct support professionals; without their dedication and continued efforts, many individuals on the autism spectrum and their families would not have needed support services. Some come to work for ASNC for a few months, others stay for a lifetime.
DSPs are the largest percentage of ASNC’s employees, and we learn how to improve what we do as an organization and as a system from them. Many full-time ASNC employees and managers got their start in the field through direct support work. Because of this understanding throughout the organization of the importance of DSPs, our ultimate hope is that the life of an individual with autism is improved in some way through their work.
We invite you to give your DSP a pat on the back, nominate them for the Roman Award, or make a donation in their honor for a job well done during Direct Support Professional Recognition Week (or any week).Tags: ASNC, Asperger Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome, autism, autism advocacy, autism nc, autism north carolina, autism society north carolina, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder, autism support, Developmental disability, direct support professional, Roman Award