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Direct Support Professionals Celebration

Direct Support Professionals Celebration

Thank You, Direct Support Professionals!

Let’s celebrate direct support professionals! The Autism Society of North Carolina employs hundreds of direct support professionals. Every day, they work one-on-one with individuals with autism,  supporting them in reaching their goals. They become important resources, trusted friends, and honorary members of families. Our direct support professionals are known for going above and beyond!

Every year, we award direct support professionals for their dedication and integrity. Meet this year’s winners:
2023 Roman Award Winner – Announcement Coming Soon
2023 McCrimmon Award Winners – Announcement Coming Soon

We hope you’ll join us and celebrate direct support professionals across our state and take the time to thank those amazing people who work with your family and in your community. If you would like to send a DSP an e-Thank You card please click here.

Want to join our amazing team of DSPs? Submit your resume here.


Below, you’ll meet some of our extraordinary DSPs, with families and supervisors explaining what makes them so special.

Western North Carolina

Jonathan Braden

“Johnny B is energetic, happy, and always positive. He thinks of everyone before himself.”

Kat Murray

“Kat is kind and eager to learn. She is a delight to work with. She jumped right in to a developing program and made it seem like she’s been there for years. ”

Taylor Coddington

“Taylor works so hard to make sure Andy has the best life possible. He helps Andy strive to be all he can be.”

Amanda Wilson Cagle

“Amanda is the stable and wonderful kick-off to Davis’s week. Mondays really rock with work, exercise, and shopping for the week’s groceries. Amanda pushes Davis to maximum independence in all these activities AND adds variety to grocery shopping and menu planning. She helps Davis adhere to the IBS diet which protects him from dreaded IBS symptoms. She means so much to our family.”

Leighann Harris

“Anyone can imagine that filling the role of “floater” is extremely demanding. Going into new situations and routines and making it all work is nothing short of amazing. This is what Leigh Ann does with absolute grace. Then imagine that she helps her participant not even feel the anxiety of someone “new”!? That’s what Leigh Ann does. And she cares enough to work hard on transitions so everyone wins. When we know Leigh Ann is filling in, we know all is well!”

Em Sallade

“Em has been at Ascend since the doors opened. Em is a consistent and steady hand that is part of the success of the program.”

Claire McCulloch

“Creative and kind, Claire is really good at motivating clients to do and try new things.”


Erica Beelman

“Erica is brilliant, thoughtful, and a true advocate for the individuals she supports.”

Johnny Gilliam

“Johnny is very good with his client, JO. Johnny started with JO when JO was having a difficult time with staff turnover. Johnny stepped right in and developed a bond with JO and they work very well together.”

Aung Ha

“Aung is an amazing staff member. He has worked with his client, JO, for many years. Aug and JO have a great bond and JO trusts Aung. Aung is always on time and is very dependable. He is devoted to his client and has become like another member of JO’s family.”

Zarianna Shealy

“Zarianna takes initiative to help her participant overcome doubts and push through limitations of fear through building fun, new, and meaningful bridges.”

Angela Wideman

“Angela works with Bobby at the Bearhollow supported living residence, at the ACLE day program, and in a community networking capacity. Angela serves as the “momma bear” caretaker for Bobby and his two roommates at the house, a mentor and instructor at the center, and a coach in the community. Bobby’s father quite often defers to Angela regarding important decisions in his son’s life…and so does Bobby! She is now helping desensitize Bobby to doctor visits by running daily practice with blood pressure cuffs and mock shots. She also gently, yet firmly, models a standard of excellence for her colleagues and supervisor, as we all look up to her with respect and affection!”

Bambi Rollins

“Teamwork really does make the dream work! Bambi has been an incredible support to her client CM as he takes on administrative tasks and provides supports within the ACLE. She is driven to explore new tasks with CM and is a joy to be around.”

Karen Pullom

“Karen is a wonderful staff! She is always willing to step in and provide supports when needed. Reliable, dependable, and caring. Her ingenuity is on full display when client challenges are afoot, as her quest for client enrichment is indefatigable.”


Lauren Dodd

“Lauren is creative and passionate. Leah loves getting her nails and makeup done by Lauren. Leah says Lauren is funny and cool!”

Mark Lockwood

“Mark is a great support for Kyle and helps him stay on task at home, and in the community. Mark is dedicated and always willing to help!”

Julie Brennan

“Julie is amazing and we are so thankful for her! Julie and Nick have been working together for 5 years. They enjoy volunteering, going on walks, puzzles, cooking class, and art class.”

Hady Mottesi

“Hady wants M to work hard towards independence and is always willing to work to make sure that she is working toward goals in the best way.”

Becky Webb

“Becky and Ryan (center) are a mother-son duo who engage in so many fun activities throughout the triangle. Becky is always finding creative ways to support Ryan and get him engaged in his community! Ryan’s team is so lucky to have her!”

An Quigley

“Featuring the one of a kind An Quigley with her two favorite participants. An keeps both Darrien (left) and Erin (right) busy in the community. She always has a good local food recommendation to stop into with her participants. We Love and Appreciate all you do!”​

Sarah Waller

“Sarah’s car broke down and instead of cancelling her session with the family, she walked over three miles in the 100 degree heat outside to get there. The easiest thing to do would have been to cancel, but she wasn’t going to miss and let the family down. ”

Chan Harrison

“Chan is a fan favorite direct support staff of the Triangle Region. Chan always has a witty response! Here he is wearing some Autism Society swag! Chan goes above and beyond for those he serves and often suggests to take on additional shifts. The Autism Society of North Carolina is so thankful for all you do, Chan! Keep being awesome!”

Lisa Chapman

“Lisa has played an important role in Jack’s life for the past 5 years. She is a fantastic motivator! She keeps Jack on task when changes and chaos happen at work. Her encouragement to have more fun and “shake it off” when needed has helped to reduce anxiety and overwhelm. Lisa is caring, consistent and essential to Jack being a successful employee and we consider her the best DSP Jack has ever had!”​

Jeffery Wooden

“One of Jeff’s exceptional attributes is his innate ability to build genuine connections with those he supports. Jeff understands that each individual’s needs are unique, and he tailors his approach to suit their specific requirements. Whether it’s implementing calming techniques, creating structured routines, or offering a listening ear, Jeff’s unwavering commitment to their well-being is evident in his actions.”

Debra Wyatt

“Debra is truly an exceptional staff. Her dedication shines through in the invaluable ways she helps Chris navigate his daily life. Debra takes a proactive approach in helping Chris work towards his long-term goals. Her guidance empowers Chris to make progress and grow as an individual, fostering a sense of independence and accomplishment. Through her compassion and expertise, Debra ensures that Chris receives the comprehensive support he needs to thrive as an adult.”


Thomas Bridges

“Thomas is reading from his own book in this picture. He is a wonderful worker who has been with us forever. He has expanded Ricardo’s vocabulary and is an absolute treasure.”

Mary Conroy

“Mary and her client go together like peas and carrots. Mary has so much merit!”​

Heather McCarthy

“Heather has worked hard with her client Misty to get Misty back out in the community. They are doing fun activities everywhere.”

Jennifer Noble

“Jennifer and her client Brandy are always dressed so cute for any and every occasion. Their smiles light up the room.”

Shawn Raeford

“Shawn is the glue of ALSD. She organizes events and is always up for a party. She can’t be beat!”

Aramy Taylor-Smith

“Aramy is always on the ball. She’s caring and passionate about serving clients, and she’s always willing to go the extra mile.”

Peaches Lewis

“Peaches is the heart and soul of our Fayetteville office. She’s a hard worker, the absolute kindest person, and a tenacious problem-solver – what more could you want from a dedicated DSP?”


Jacob Bannister

“Jacob has helped tremendously with getting Joe out of his shell. Joe lives independently in his own apartment which previously stayed isolated before Jacob entered his life. Joe loves the game of futbol, running, bowling, lifting weights and attending sporting events. Jacob worked with Joe exercise to prepare him for basketball practices along with participating in those practices as well. Joe attended Special Olympics basketball 3v3 at state games in Raleigh which he brought home the gold medal. Jacob has picked up additional shifts when needed and attended sporting events that Joe really wanted to attend. Joe’s parents have praised Jacob for the effort and commitment with this case.”

Kaitlin Warren

“Kaitlin is in graduate school and still finds time to support ASNC clients. Kaitlin is part of the “beastmode squad,” during which she runs 5-8 miles with clients on Saturdays and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Kaitlin is very creative when it comes to addressing goals and building meaningful days for the people she supports. The people Kaitlin supports are very attached to her and excited when she’s on the schedule.”


Kaitlyn Burakowski

“Kaitlyn is caring, athletic, and knows how to have fun with everyone she works with! You can find her in the gym playing pick-up basketball, giving hugs and love to her clients, and using visual supports and autism resources each day.”

Dyshira Hurdle

“Dyshira wears many hats in Social Recreation – direct care staff for adults and school age clients, taxi driver, activity planner, emotional support, and many more! Each day, she comes to work ready for whatever that day may throw at her and takes it with a smile. She makes our clients laugh and is a sounding board for staff when they need support.”

Morgan MacBeath

“Morgan is a light to any room she walks into. She is flexible, positive, and truly cares about each and every client she works with. She comes into each day with an open mind and willingness to meet each of her clients needs in any way.”


Nikki Dinkins

“Nikki is such a wonderful advocate and caring heart for all the participants that she has worked with. Nikki stands out with her nurturing personality.”

Nyah Roberts

“Nyah is such a “do it all” kind of DSP. She takes time to get to know all our clients and the best way to support them. She provides a fun safe space for our clients to be themselves.”

Mary Weeks

“Mary is a dedicated DSP who loves to give her clients structure, routine and of course a fun time. Her clients look to her for cuddles, comfort, and, of course, a laugh.”

Hannah Weaver

“Hannah absolutely loves to make crafts and she loves to share that activity with her clients. She is always encouraging her clients to think outside the box and be creative with all their interests.”

Kathryn “Kat” Scott

“Kat is a super fun DSP whose goal in Social Recreation is to give our clients a great experience every single day. You can see her passion through her work and interaction with her clients. She takes on challenges and always pushes kids to try new things.”

Lucy Kirby

“Lucy is a nurturing DSP who builds such meaningful relationships with the clients she cares for. She is a bright light for them, and they are excited to see Lucy every day! She takes on any challenge thrown at her and loves seeing the clients grow!”

Kingston Spotts

“Kingston has such passion for our clients. He has been working with a client that has limited verbal language and has been a great support in getting their voice heard. It’s been absolutely amazing to watch!”

Nicholas “Nick” Dmytriw

“Nick started working in Social Rec this Summer as his services clients, Josh & Caleb, joined us for Summer Camp! Nick quickly became a favorite among the clients both young and older. He loves sharing video games and new music with the kids and is just a joy to be around!”

Tiffany Sunderland

“Tiffany is a fantastic group leader and does great helping train any new DSPs. She loves working with our younger clients and the girls love being in her group. She keeps it fun but structured for our kiddos! She’s a good fit with all our clients!”

Mary “Camille” Fannin

“Camille (right) just joined the ASNC team this summer and quickly built a strong relationship with Mikaila (left) and her other group mates.”

Rachael Reyna

“Rachael is another DSP that works well with any client. She is normally with Simon, who she has worked with for many years now and works closely with her supervisors to create schedules and adjust field trips to what works best for him.”

Hanson Truong

“Hanson has been a fan favorite among our clients, and everyone wants him in their group! He can bring the pretend play that participants like Jyler love and enjoys the same interests as other participants in video games!”

Sydney Schreiner

“Sydney is a very sweet counselor that the girls have gravitated towards. She loves to use her experiences to help the older participants work through anxious emotions.”

Sandra “Sandi” Gerner

“Sandi brings forth the creativity to the clients. They are always open to volunteer even outside of Social Rec and enjoyed face painting for both our Fall Festival and the Run/Walk!”

Aaron King

“Aaron creates great connections with each client he works with. He likes helping his participants learn and grow with new skills.  He is always searching for knowledge and asking questions to build up his own skills to help our kiddos!”

Kenn Franceschini

“Kenn does a fantastic job at working with his clients on expressing their feelings. He works on having them build up their self-confidence and advocating for themselves. He also loves to hype them up, get them active and of course, having fun!”

Melissa Garver

“Melissa is another fantastic DSP who adjusts to each client we put her with. She works well with our older and younger groups and takes on any opportunities we give her. She always has such a bright personality and loves being with her clients.”

Maddison Michaud

“Maddison shines with her caring heart. She develops deep connections with her clients. She is flexible and can work with older clients and younger clients.”