Frontline Initiative Workforce Development

Stories from DSPs at the AFP Summit


Teresa DeMar

Rita McAninch-Hastings

While attending the Alliance for Full Participation (AFP) Summit the staff of Frontline Initiative had the opportunity to talk with Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) about their work and what they wanted to learn from their participation in the Summit. The following are interviews with two DSPs around their experience at the Summit.

Teresa’s Story

Teresa DeMar has worked as a DSP for over 20 years. Currently, she works at Heritage Christian Services in Rochester, New York. She enjoys her work as a DSP and particularly appreciates being able to share different parts of herself with the people she supports by coaching a Special Olympics volleyball team and doing craft projects with them.

Teresa traveled to AFP with 12 people from her agency, including DSPs and self-advocates. She had been asked to speak about being a DSP at the Summit. Initially, she thought the Summit would be small, but later learned what a huge and innovative Summit it actually was. This made Teresa a bit nervous about her presentation, but she reported that it went really well.

When asked about her experience at the AFP Summit, Teresa stated, “This conference has been wonderful. I’ve been able to get all sorts of different ideas.” She indicated that one of the greatest joys of the conference was being able to share in the experience of the self-advocates she traveled with. She enjoyed talking with them about the sessions and observing how much they enjoyed their experience at the Summit.

“Attending the Summit sparks a vision of wanting to make sure you can go back and share all these experiences with everybody,” Teresa said, “and I look forward to the next steps we can take. I can’t wait to see what our state as a whole wants to set its goals.” As she refl ected on her experience at the AFP Summit, Teresa noted how truly important

DSPs are to the people they support and the setting in which they work. Additionally, Teresa had renewed her vision for encouraging greater self-advocacy by the people she supports as she returned to work.

Teresa DeMar works as a DSP at Heritage Christian Services in Rochester, NY.

Rita’s Story

Rita McAninch-Hastings has worked as a DSP at Dakota Communities Incorporated in Minnesota since 1981. She really enjoys her job and the constant challenges it brings. As a presenter and participant at the AFP Summit, Rita admits that at fi rst she did not know what to expect.

Arriving at the Summit, she was particularly struck by the number of self-advocates in attendance. She refl ected that in so many places the voices of self-advocates are missing. She was also struck by the information shared and the comments made by self-advocates. For Rita, these voices made important issues more three-dimensional. She typically hears the views of providers, DSPs, and the government, but with self-advocates included in the dialogue, the picture was completed. Rita stated, “Rarely do you hear the voices of self-advocates talking about how the things we do impact their lives and whether or not they really want us to do those things. We need to begin to listen because it is their life and they need to be running it.”

As Rita returned to her work in Minnesota, she brought the desire to help spread the word about empowerment among the people she supports. She would like to create opportunities for the people she works with to be involved in self-advocacy groups. Her goal was to communicate that the people she supports have power and there is a place where their voices can be heard.

Rita McAninch-Hastings is a DSP at Dakota Communities Incorporated in Minnesota.