Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No-member November? So... Be a member in December

Silly title to this blog but will make sense in a second.

Direct Support Professionals, according to the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals National Skill Standards, must engage in Organizational Participation.  This is a competency and skill requirement. Simply put, this means that DSPs have a professional role to be part of a larger world; they must see beyond the shift they are working, the particular setting in which they practice and even beyond the agency or provider for whom they are employed. They need to be members of their employer's various committees and work groups. DSPs should be members of community associations and organizations.  And most importantly, Direct Support Professionals need to be a member of THEIR OWN professional organization.....and they have one!!

 The relatively few numbers of Direct Support Professionals who are registered members of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals as compared to the estimated millions of people doing Direct Support in the United States is evidence to me that there is a need for spreading the word about professional membership in one's own trade organization.

Now, look, this is not necessarily an advertisement for the NADSP however it is a suggestion to all of you who are reading this to tell your colleagues about the benefits of being part of a "larger voice".  If you are not a member yourself, please consider joining. The whole purpose of professional trade organizations is to expand the body of knowledge of the profession, to provide networking possibilities for it's members and to help boost the recognition and importance of the particular craft or profession; and in our case the Direct Support Profession.  

Professional Membership Associations provide:
      An opportunity to be part of a larger, state, regional and national movement
      A seat at the table during Policy discussions
      Opportunities to Participate in Training & Networking Activities
      Newsletters, websites, social networking sites and other means of communication to learn about issues that are important to them
A sense of professional empowerment and status...(this information taken from a power point presentation NADSP does around the country promoting the profession)

It so happens that the major organization in the USA that is doing such advocacy and development work on behalf of DSPs is the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals....please see the website NADSP.

Many states have chapters of the NADSP such as, New York State's DSPANYS (Direct Support Professional Alliance of NY State and Ohio which has, OADSP Ohio Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. There are many, many more state chapters which you can check out on the NADSP home page.

The point to today's blog is simple.  If you are a Direct Support Professional and want to be a bigger part of a movement to improve your craft and profession, become affiliated with more people who are also looking at the same future and growth as you.  If you are not a member of your professional association in a member in December. Details to join NADSP and state affiliates are on the NADSP website.  And, if you are a member, recruit others to make our voice and mission louder! 

Remember to become a member!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving for DSPs!!

It is Thanksgiving Eve 2012.  There over 1,000,000 Direct Support Professionals throughout the United States right now doing incredible work to make sure that the people they support are given a Happy Thanksgiving.  I can see it now....The overnight shift tonight will be preparing the turkeys, tofurkeys and all the (longer-to-prepare) items, tomorrow the morning shift will ensure that family visits are organized and that all the details of the day are in order and that stuffing is prepared and pies are cooked and that people who are supported with dietary and food consistency needs will have chopped/pureed and tasty Thanksgiving fare.... Tomorrow's afternoon and evening shift DSPs will assist and support countless people in celebrating our rich American tradition of Thanksgiving.  In all there will also be countless Direct Support Professionals who are not on shift this Thanksgiving who will be bringing some of the people they support (who may not have family) to their personal family gatherings.  Moreover, I can also imagine and guarantee that there will also be lots of Direct Support staff not scheduled to work tomorrow who will end up visiting the people they support anyway!

Yes, DSPs are dedicated year round but ....they really tend to be ultra-sensitive and involved with the folks they serve during the holidays.

Countless people who are lovingly supported by Direct Support Professionals often have no voice to say thank you.  Or, sometimes there is not a thank you given for whatever reason. Trust me, they are very thankful to you.

Today, on Thanksgiving Eve, I would like to on behalf of all the people who depend on DSPs all year, and on behalf of myself, the NADSP and all the providers and families who rely on you......

THANK YOU!!!   Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Paycheck People

Direct Support PAYCHECK PEOPLE.  DSPPs....yikes o rama!!!   This sounds like a negative post is about to occur.  I would disagree. Here is why....

Over the course of the past few years  I have facilitated dozens, if not hundreds, of Direct Support Professional Public Forums all around the country. During these sessions Direct Support Professionals are given the rare opportunity to talk about their craft and their noble profession in an open and non judgmental yet facilitated manner.  Generally there is a topic or theme that start the sessions and often the DSPs expand and dialog well past our allotted time for the session.  We often hate to end these rich and wonderful conversations, but DSPs must get back to their "shifts".

Almost always there is mention of "The Paycheck People".  From California to NY. North Dakota to Texas......DSPs speak of the "Paycheck People". It sounds like a lost tribe of humans who wander from agency to agency...provider to provider in search of the holy paycheck.  Well, I suppose it is not far from that, this notion of "The Paycheck People".

DSPs will describe these folks as doing direct support work at the bare minimum standard. DSPPs (Direct Support Paycheck People) are seemingly in all organizations and are the staff who no one seems to like. They are staff who DO NOT know the people they support.  They are often staff who bring morale and spirits down. They are staff who are NOT following and abiding to the policies of the organization, the rules of the game and often will be the texters, cell phone users, sleepers and late-comers.....oh, the Paycheck People are known to call out frequently, often around this time of year....the holidays....(I guess they have to spend the money they are getting).....

One more thing...Paycheck People do not follow one of the main tenets in the NADSP Code of Ethics; Integrity and Responsibility.  It appears to me that if the Paycheck People begin to follow this part of the Code, then we will all be well.  If Direct Support Professionals deny this ethical obligation, then we must do all in our legal and moral power to remove them from our field. If you have some paycheck people running around (they probably don't do much of that) but figuratively if they are running around your organization, then get them out!!!  I will close this entry with the hallowed code of Integrity and Responsibility. 

It states:
As a DSP, I will support the mission and vitality of my profession to assist people in leading self-directed lives and to foster a spirit of partnership with the people I support, other professionals, and the community.
As a DSP, I will:
  • Be conscious of my own values and how they influence my professional decisions.
  • Maintain competency in my profession through learning and ongoing communication with others.
  • Assume responsibility and accountability for my decisions and actions.
  • Actively seek advice and guidance on ethical issues from others as needed when making decisions.
  • Recognize the importance of modeling valued behaviors to co-workers, persons receiving support, and the community at-large.
  • Practice responsible work habits.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

DSP Power

I am just home from a whirlwind mini-tour!  I was in Albany, NY, Wappingers Falls, NY and Annapolis, Maryland in the span of three and a half days.....I traveled with my colleague, friend and DSP advocacy-partner, Executive Director of NADSP, and Assistant Executive Director of NYSACRA, Mr. Joseph Macbeth.  In those three and a half days we had the great honor, privilege, responsibility and opportunity to meet over 400 Direct Support Professionals from many, many provider agencies. We were sharing the NADSP Code of Ethics (a major subject in the next blogs) and Direct Support Skill Standards and Competencies. Wow...sounds so exciting!!??  Well, was.

There is an amazing power and a spirit in the unity and collective voice of Direct Support Professionals. In fact, in these past few days I have been overwhelmed at the power of DSPs voices and spirits as they relate their heartfelt stories to us.  We spoke with people from a wide variety of settings and agencies.  The common theme at every session was in the incredible joy and pride that comes through these stories DSPs share in the work they do with people they support.  It is palpable and measurable and the passion coming from them is inspiring.

Power defined....(at least by Wikipedia).....Power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed. The unit of power is the joule per second (J/s), known as the watt (in honor of James Watt, the eighteenth-century developer of the steam engine). For example, the rate at which a light bulb transforms electrical energy into heat and light is measured in watts—the more wattage, the more power, or equivalently the more electrical energy is used per unit time.[1][2]
Energy transfer can be used to do work, so power is also the rate at which this work is performed. The same amount of work is done when carrying a load up a flight of stairs whether the person carrying it walks or runs, but more power is expended during the running because the work is done in a shorter amount of time. The output power of an electric motor is the product of the torque the motor generates and the angular velocity of its output shaft. The power expended to move a vehicle is the product of the traction force of the wheels and the velocity of the vehicle.

Power in this sense is positive.  Power is about continuation, life-force and sustainability. In this sense it is a positive thing/attribute. This is really interesting and compelling in terms of supporting people with disabilities.  In our industry of developmental disability service, the concept of power has been demonized, bastardized and made into a negative. Ultimately, in my opinion power can be a tool and force if used and perceived in the right way. 

The power that I felt and heard in the words, stories and activities of the DSPs in the past several days is an indication of how people with disabilities are being supported in NY and in Maryland, we are in very good shape.  Power is not necessarily a bad thing.... unless it is used against people.  Most of the staff I met on this trip were using power and Participant EmPOWERment (one of the NADSP Skill Standards) in very real, positive and loving ways, all in support and advocacy with people they served.

DSP-Power, if it is ethical and competent, may just be what will save our world! 

More power to the ethical and competent DSPs I met this last few days!!!  We need you.  We appreciate you.  We love you!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Training is for dogs....

Woof, woof.....sit Rover.  Roll over Rover.  Here's a biscuit, Rover.....Good dog.  Yup, Rover is being trained.  He gets the treat for the behavior he presents to his proud owner. This is largely accepted and generally is the way we train animals.

Training  for Direct Support Professionals is similar.  Once a year DSPs will need to take regulatory "trainings" and only rarely they will get to go to a really educational and inspirational session at some afternoon conference or something like that.  But mostly they will take 8 or 9 "mandated" annual courses like CPR, Blood Exposure/Control, Corporate Compliance, First Aid etc...These are important.  Do not get me wrong.   HOWEVER, these are usually conducted in a way not unlike the dog scenario above.  Usually (not always but very often) the trainings are done, sign-in sheets are documented, and another year goes by until the DSP goes to next dry and frankly boring mandated training.  DSPs should have the opportunities to engage in rich , relevant and meaningful opportunites for educational development.

I am blogging live from such an event.  I am in MALTA, NY at the NYSACRA (New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies) NYSACRA Capitol District DSP Conference. Over 100 Direct Support Professionals from around the New York State Capitol District (from Glens Falls to Hudson...from the Massachusetts border to Gloversville) are involved in a day-long annual conference devoted to their education and development. This is NOT training....this is enrichment and indeed an educational experience for them. It is a time for them to celebrate their and network. NYSACRA has long valued the front-line workforce and has been at the forefront of the DSP movement in the entire country and this is an annual conference that has record attendance this year.

Nationally recognized speakers and representatives from the NADSP (National Alliance for Direct Support included!) NADSP  will be presenting on topics related to the important work of DSPs. Awards will be given and lunch will be served.  Jeff Covington, Regional Vice President (Capitol District) of NYSACRA and key organizer of this event says, " This is a wonderful opportunity for Direct Support Professionals to learn and grow. With 110 participants it's good to see the commitment providers have to the profession of direct support."

The power of education cannot be underestimated and training is NOT education.

Train dogs....
....Educate professionals.....especially, Direct Support Professionals.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My first blog

Here I am. I sit in my home office and look south, out a round window looking at the glorious Catskill Mountains, and I am about to begin a new life. I have started a new life in a sense with the birth of my daughter exactly 3 years ago and the delightful marriage to my wife of 6 years.  But this new PROFESSIONAL life is all about a movement to improve the lives of well over 1,200,000 people in the United States who call themselves Direct Support Professionals.

Just a few days ago I resigned from a director position at a fairly large human services agency that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  It was time for me to fly. I was at this organization 10 years and trained and educated well over 2000 Direct Support Professionals (D.S.P.) over those years.  In that time, I came to realize that I had great influence in helping the incoming "entry-level" understand that the work they were about to enter, Direct Support, was and is a complex and challenging PROFESSION; please take a moment to view the website in this link to prove that being a D.S.P. is a challenging and rewarding career;

The Profession of Direct Support; A Primer 

This blog will be an ongoing look into the mind and heart of ME, a trainer and educator of Direct Support Professionals and be a diary of sorts of my new beginnings as a national/international consultant and advocate for and with Direct Support Professionals.  I am calling the blog Training Wheels because it feels like I am in need of using them, metaphorically, as I meet DSPs and realize that they are often at the very beginning stages of learning about their profession and they also are new to a field that is finally beginning to get rolling in the United States. 

I hope you enjoy the ramblings and ideas that will come as regularly as I can post and I really would LOVE an ongoing comment and conversation string.  So, here I go...I am entering into a new world of blogging and a new world of being self-employed.