Frontline Initiative Complex Needs

The Real Scoop

Welcome to The Real Scoop. 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 you face as you forge ahead in your role as a Direct Support Professional (DSP). Seth has been a DSP for many years, and he loves to give advice. He may ruffle your feathers, but hey, it’s for your own good! Clifford and Seth tackle this one with a few suggestions.

True Choices

 Dear Clifford and Seth,

I am a Direct Support Professional and my supervisor has asked me to come up with a way to determine how people we serve make their own choices and if they are really making the choices they want. Do you have any advice on how I can get started in helping people make choices they believe in? — Jane from Los Angeles

Dear Jane,

First, simply sit down and talk with the person in a comfortable setting, somewhere he or she enjoys. Ask the person some simple, basic things to begin with, such as whether she likes where she’s living and working or not. Also, carry a note pad with you so when you notice something that a person likes or dislikes, you can record it, which may be very useful when the person has difficulty using words. Also, talk to those closest to the person — friends, family, the DSP who works with him or her most. They will know a lot about what the individual enjoys. When the person has a team meeting, create a statement of choices, needs and wants in clear language. She can then know that her choices are being understood. A few days after the meeting, go over the notes and comments again with the person to make sure everything really went the desired direction. Follow up with friends, family, and coworkers and talk about how to make these things happen. Then, your job is to see that these choices and preferences become a reality. — Clifford 

Dear Jane,

I think the best way to start finding out how people you serve are making individualized choices is to find out what a person’s dreams are. If the choices people make are in line with their dreams, you are doing a great job. If the choices they make are not following their dreams, check to make sure they have exposure to a variety of options. It is this important step that is at the heart of your question. People need choices that somewhat realistically meet each step towards their dreams. So, options have to be very individualistic and flexible. Is that what your agency is doing now, or do you have only a set range of choices that are very general? Talk to your supervisor about his or her thoughts. — Seth