Frontline Initiative Code of Ethics
On our way to Circle K:
Living the Code
It was April, 2009 when Belinda and Teresa first met. Teresa was a forty-five year old woman with Rhett Syndrome who lived at home with her parents. This is a story of Belinda Sowers, a Direct Support Professional (DSP) in Zanesville, Ohio, whose commitment to living the Code of Ethics greatly impacted not only the person she supported, but an entire community.
When Belinda began working with Teresa, much of Teresa’s day consisted of sitting in her wheelchair or on the couch. After participating in Teresa’s routine several times, Belinda wondered what else Teresa could do. After watching Teresa carefully, Belinda noticed the changes in Teresa’s facial expressions when her mother turned the pages of her magazines. Belinda wondered if maybe Teresa liked books, and started bringing interactive books to work with her. Teresa reacted with squeals of laughter!
Belinda began researching Rhett Syndrome and could not find anything saying that Teresa could not learn. Teresa already knew how to shake her head “no,” but rolled her eyes for “yes.” Belinda began teaching Teresa to nod her head “yes” instead. It worked! Belinda began asking Teresa yes/no questions as a way to start providing Teresa some choice in her daily schedule. For example, instead of leaving Teresa in the living room while she made dinner for her, Belinda would ask her if she wanted to join her in the kitchen. Teresa nodded yes, and her mother agreed.
Belinda took time to build a relationship with Teresa’s mother, and asked her questions to gain her trust. It was because of this built trust that Teresa’s mom agreed to Belinda’s request to take Teresa outside and sit on the porch. The next time, Belinda asked to go out back to the swing, then down the back alley, then all of the way into town. It wasn’t long before they were spending two hours out, then three. They would visit the man that worked in the hardware store, the library, then to Circle K for a special treat, and sometimes they made it all of the way to the end of town to the IGA. Teresa’s parents had never seen her so happy. Everyone noticed a huge difference in Teresa; she had fewer ear infections, slept better, she even started to get a tan. And her laugh, it was contagious!
One day, the manager from Circle K asked Belinda to bring Teresa on a certain day at a certain time. They had had a cement ramp poured and they wanted her to be the first to use it. Belinda has continued to ensure Teresa is included in her community around her. Together, they have traveled to the local high school for a musical concert, to the area pool to watch the kids swim, to the park for fireworks and outdoor movie nights, and there are many more plans in the making.
Belinda’s actions illustrate several of the principles central to the Code of Ethics. In her commitment to supporting Teresa, Belinda has prioritized person-centered planning, and has clearly promoted Teresa’s personal and emotional well-being. With Belinda’s support, Teresa has had opportunities to self-direct her life and build relationships with members of her community. Belinda’s relationship with Teresa’s family respectfully resembles that of a partnership. If you drive through New Concord on any decent spring, summer, or fall day, you are likely to see Belinda and Teresa continuing to make their rounds to visit their friends and neighbors.