Frontline Initiative Communication

The Real Scoop

Welcome to the second printing of The Real Scoop. Our question raises the issue of the difficulty of providing supports to people who may not seem to return any thanks for the service provided. After some time, this can be very frustrating. Clifford is a self-advocate who has been politically active for years. He’s ready to give you his spin on how to deal with issues that come up as you forge ahead in your role as a Direct Support Professional. Seth is a Direct Support Professional who loves to give advice. He has been a DSP for too many years to count. He may give you a hard time, but hey, it’s for your own good! Clifford and Seth tackle this one with just a few suggestions. How would you handle this situation?

Turning the Other Cheek Seventy Times Seven?

Dear Clifford and Seth,

In the two years I have worked as a DSP, many times my job feels like a huge double standard. I am trained to treat consumers with respect, while they often treat me with disrespect for the services which I provide them. Certain individuals repeatedly swear at me, tell me I am dumb, ask me to the point of belligerency why $15 will not buy a $50 radio, and immortalize me in bad-mouthed lyrics when things don’t turn out perfectly. This gets exasperating sometimes. How much is too much? What’s the appropriate way to handle this kind of repetitive behavior that feels abusive? —Hector Ianua

Dear Hector Ianua,

You need to sit down with that person and explain why $15 for a radio won’t buy one for $50, and set up a plan to buy the radio by saving money for it. Your training should help you understand their frustration. If you feel unable to sit down with that person and talk it out, you should find help from another staff person or your supervisor. —Clifford

Dear Hector,

You are missing the point of your training. The consumer’s way of empowerment, after years of feeling powerless, may be to berate and belittle others. Your boss should be instructing you on how to turn these annoying, repetitive, or negative experiences into positive ones for you to share with those you support and even laugh about together. For example, when someone swears at you and calls you dumb, the person is only repeating what has been thrown his or her way for years. Ask the person how he or she knows about the word “dumb.” You might be surprised at the years of abuse he’s endured and how well he’s adapted, sometimes by taking it out on other people like you. After you’ve established a better understanding, show this consumer how you care by going to yard sales together. You may find the radio for $15 and earn the respect you desire. —Seth

Editors Note: Feeling perpetually angry or frustrated with a consumer’s actions is a sign that it’s time to seek help. Talk to a trusted administrator about options such as advanced training, increased peer or supervisory support, or a transfer to another work environment.