Frontline Initiative Professionalism

Professionalism Shows Respect


Jennifer Koch lives with her parents in St. Charles, MO

To me, a Direct Support Professional (DSP) is being professional when he or she shows others respect and helps others do and understand things they want or need. I have dealt with many DSPs at work, home, and other social settings. Some of them have been very professional, treating me respectfully, while others have been very poor examples of professionalism, treating me as if I were somebody without feelings, choice, or opinion.

At work, I’ve experienced both. My supervisors have shown me a great deal of respect. They provide myself and others with the supports we need to do our jobs well. They have also helped me when others are being less than professional. Where I work, we often have temporary employees come in and work with us, and I’ve found some of them to be rather disrespectful. I let my supervisors know about this. My supervisors then talk to the temps who are being disrespectful and provide them with the insight they need in order to provide me with supports rather than tell me what to do.

Another example of somebody I respect as a professional is my case manager, who has been my case manager since 1995. She is polite and doesn’t boss me around or tell me what to do. Two years ago, she helped me to check out different jobs like doing laundry at a hotel and cleaning at a nursing home. These didn’t work out, so I took a job with my present employer. At the time, it was the only job available which allowed me to sit during part of my work. I can’t stand all day because I have Cerebral Palsy which affects my left ankle and leg. My case manager treated me professionally in how she helped me to look at different jobs to find one that I could do. She listened to me and helped me find options that would work with my wants and needs. I am ready to start looking for a different job and I think it would be good and professional of my case manager to help me begin that search so I could make more money and be happier with myself.

 In contrast to my case manager, I’d say that my boyfriend’s case manager is unprofessional. My boyfriend and I like to spend a lot of time together, but his case manager bosses us around and tells us how to live and when we can and can’t see each other. He does the same for my boyfriend’s other friends. I would respect him as a case manager and as a professional only if he would respect our decisions, boundaries, and desires.

When I do my work, I try to be as professional and respectful as possible, because that’s how I would want others to treat me. For instance, when I volunteer at a local organization that holds fun meetings and fund-raisers, I answer the telephone and treat the callers with respect by listening to them and answering their questions. To me, that’s a big part of what it means to be a professional. My boss at this club and the others there treat me courteously. If they need to use the telephone when I’m working, they don’t tell me rudely to get off the phone but let me know and ask me politely.

These are all examples of what I think professionals do or don’t look like. If a DSP wants to be considered a professional, then she or he should provide supports respectfully, treat others as they would like to be treated. All DSPs should be professional because that way people with disabilities would get more respect.