For Alyssa Pittman, being a DSP is about empathy and independence.
Alyssa Pittman knows what it’s like to not feel heard.
She’s gone through difficult times where she needed help and didn’t always have a way to express her feelings.
But she truly believes every dark, frustrating moment helped her become the person she is today. And she’s able to use those feelings as motivation every day she shows up for work.
For the past few months, Alyssa, 25, has been working as a direct support professional (known as a DSP) for CLE, caring for several women who have disabilities.
“I look at it as an opportunity to learn about myself and I can educate them, based on my experiences as well,” she said.
A lot of DSPs have an interesting story about how they came into the field, but Alyssa’s story is different than most.
Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in kindergarten, Alyssa grew up on the receiving end of most care giving relationships.
But that changed last spring when she met Brandi Body at a DD Awareness Bingo game, held at the provider agency she attends.
Brandi, who works for the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities as a DSP eligibility specialist, is always on the look out for new front-line caregivers. So she immediately noticed Alyssa, serving cookies and water to the people around her and checking on their needs.
“I leaned over to (my coworker) and said, ‘That’s the best DSP I’ve ever seen,'” Brandi said. “I was shocked to find out that she was there as a participant.”
Alyssa was between jobs at the time and struggling to find the right fit. But it took many conversations with Brandi before she was ready to consider becoming a DSP. She decided to take on a part time position as a secondary staff member at a home in Newark, so she could be part of a team.
Brandi and CLE worked closely with her to make sure she could continue to maintain her benefits, had the training she needed and had access to transportation to get to work.
“When I first began, I was pretty nervous, I have disabilities so I was afraid of making a mistake,” Alyssa said. “But I think I’ve done an amazing job so far.”
When she first started working for CLE, Alyssa’s first priority was to get to know each one of the ladies she would be supporting and how they like things to be done. She knows firsthand how important it is to follow a schedule
“I love them, I wouldn’t change them,” she said. “Even if we have a problem, I sit down with them and ask, ‘What’s upsetting you?’ And we have a conversation.”
Alyssa helps with housework and plans activities. She tries to come up with ideas that are fun, but also match up with their goals.
She’s come up with different word games to help them work on communication and creative ways to get them excited about washing up.
“I want to get them to have independence too, I live on my own, but I used to be like them,” she said. “I say, ‘Do you want to help me do the dishes?’ I always ask if they want to help. It’s very important that they have some sort of independence.”
One of the things that makes Alyssa a great DSP is that she cares about peoples’ dignity, and will stand up for them if she she feels they are being disrespected, Brandi said.
A DSP needs to be patient and clear when they communicate, Alyssa said. It’s also important to let the tough moments go and focus on the positives.
“I love encouraging them to try new things. I want them to have fun. We love to joke around and have dance parties,” she said. “You get to just be you. You really can teach each other.”
For Alyssa, becoming a DSP has been life changing. She’s hoping to start working on her drivers license, and is looking forward to being able to take the ladies on more outings in the community.
“I think I have more confidence about myself since I started this job,” she said.
For more information about how you can become a direct support professional, contact Brandi Body at 740-349-6588 or go to DSPCareers.com.