For the past seven years, it’s been my pleasure to teach a class for The Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program. LEND is a program that provides training to students who are becoming leaders in the field of disabilities.
Every year I’m encouraged to present on issues I’m passionate about. This year one of my topics focused on the unpaid and undervalued direct support professionals (DSP).
I’ve had many DSP’s throughout my life. Most of my DSP’s were good but there were others that just didn’t make the cut. My current DSP is Q. We have been together for the past six years. I depend on her to assist me with daily tasks. Without her, I would be up a creek without the paddle. She helps me every day to get ready for work. At eight o’clock in the morning, she is at my door and if she’s late, which is rare, it’s only by a few minutes. When she hits the door, she’s raring to go! Q helps me dress, combs my hair and does light housekeeping which includes; vacuuming, and washing dishes. On top of those duties, she also, prepares my breakfast, applies my make-up, puts my medicine out, and makes sure I have my bus tickets. In fact, she even puts my jacket on. If this sounds like a lot, it is and I’m just her first consumer of the day.
I really like my DSP, after all she’s been with me for quite a while. Do you know how hard it is to find a dependable DSP, not to mention one you like? You may find one who is dependable but is so bossy with a bad attitude, that you’d rather take your chances on taking care of yourself.
The turn-around in this profession is like a revolving door and I think it has a lot to do with what little pay they make. How do I know? DSP’s talk about how frustrated they are with their pay. Of course, they don’t go into details but I’m pretty good at reading between the lines. When you’re with a DSP for a long period of time, you become friends and what do friends do? They talk!
Many DSP’s are single women and are the breadwinner of their family and they work multiple jobs to make ends meet. It doesn’t seem fair for all the work they do, and their paycheck doesn’t reflect it. When this is the case, DSP’s quit which leaves people like me who depend on them stuck. Not only do I have to worry about if the “new girl” and I are going to mesh, I also must train her on my daily routine, which can often be frustrating.
Ohio recently announced that after a decade, DSP’s will be getting a raise. I’m happy to hear this for Ohio DSP’s are certainly deserving of one as well as others. Remember, DSP’s wear many hats. Let’s show our appreciation by advocating for them to be paid for their work and worth.