Frontline Initiative Teamwork

Working Toward a Common Goal


 Terri Niland is an Individual Family Care Provider with The Arc of Montgomery County, Maryland. Terri is also a Community and Employment Specialist with the Abilities Network.

As I watched the coverage of the Olympics on television recently, it occurred to me that the outcome of these games did not depend solely on the efforts of one person. The athletes, their families and coaches, the International Olympic Committee, as well as their national counterparts, and all of the broadcast staff, combined their efforts to create a successful Olympiad. The success of our work as DSPs (DSPS) is, in many ways, similar to the efforts that created a successful 27th Olympiad. It takes hard work and a lot of teamwork to achieve good results.

In my own work as a DSP, Kathy, a Resource Coordinator for The Arc of Federick County, stands out as someone who exemplifies the principle of teamwork. Our relationship is characterized by the spirit of cooperation and teamwork. Several factors have contributed to the success of our relationship.

Regular communication has been one key element. I contact Kathy on a regular basis to update her on new developments in the lives of the individuals we both support. Slowly, Kathy informs me about any pertinent information she receives from other provider agencies. 

Joint advocacy efforts have also brought positive results for the individuals we support. Together, we have been able to accomplish more than what we might have been able to accomplish individually. Several examples come to mind. One involves the successful transfer of a woman we support from a day program that did not meet her needs to one where she feels valued and productive. It took us 14 months to accomplish her goal of moving to a new day program, but our persistence paid off. The woman we support has expressed on numerous occasions how delighted she is to now be a part of a program where she feels respected. Another example involves the use of person-centered planning at a person’s annual team meeting. Even though the person’s family was hesitant to use a new process and had actually canceled meetings to discuss person-centered planning. However, we decided to continue informal discussion the day of the meeting, we went ahead and used the person-centered planning process. The family couldn’t have been happier with the results. They were so pleased that they wrote thank-you notes and sent a letter indicating that this had been their daughter’s best annual meeting ever. 

A sense of common vision and common ideals has also contributed to our ability to work well as a team. The values of personal choice and the ability to live one’s dreams guide both of our actions as DSPs. For example, we have supported one woman to achieve her dream of a more independent and “normal” living situation. This woman indicated that she wanted to live alone with the help of a specific support person. There were many obstacles along the way, ranging from slow response time on the part of the agency providing supports to family concerns about safety. Through teamwork and persistence the woman we support has recently moved from a group home setting with two other women and a staff person to an apartment with one roommate.

Finally, our willingness to work as a team has personal benefits, as well. The sense of mutual support that develops from a team is an invaluable resource. When there is need for a little encouragement, we have another person to whom we can turn. Ultimately, the benefits of such encouragement involves being able to put forth our best efforts for those we support.

Like the athletes who participate in the Olympic games, progress (and ultimately success) is not based solely on individual effort. It is only when all of us are working toward a common goal, are all of us successful.