Frontline Initiative Working with Families

An interview with Lupe:
Reflecting on experiences with families


Susan R. Copeland, Ph.D., BCBA-D is an Associate Professor of Special Education at the University of New Mexico.

Lupe Robles is a Respite Provider at Alta Mira Specialized Family Services in New Mexico.

Lupe Robles became a Direct Support Professional (DSP) seven years ago when her niece was born with Down syndrome. She volunteered in local residential facilities for people with developmental disabilities in her hometown in Mexico when she was in middle and high school. This experience interested her in working with people with disabilities. Lupe now provides support services for people with disabilities in their own family homes. She enjoys this because it allows her to build a connection with individuals and their families.

Lupe got to know other families who also had children with developmental disabilities through providing respite services for her niece. Some of these families began asking her if she could also provide respite for their children. Her reputation for providing excellent support grew over time and she now provides respite care for young children with a range of developmental disabilities. She has been a respite provider for most of these children for many years. 

Lupe most often provides support in the children’s homes. However, she has gotten to know their families so well over the years that sometimes they bring the children to her house and she provides respite services there. She also hosts barbecues for the children and families she supports at her own house. She feels strongly that it is important for the children she supports to have an opportunity to get to know other adults and children outside of their families. Bringing families together is one way to do this. Lupe has seen her own children’s understanding of disability grow as they get to know the children she supports. 

Each time Lupe begins to work for a new family, she interviews the family and makes sure that the information she has received from the agency is accurate. She asks the families to provide a schedule of their child’s activities, and information on the child’s interests, likes/dislikes, and other needs. She uses that information to create unique activities and supports for each child. 

Lupe mentioned that the most important thing a DSP needs to do in supporting a child in his or her own home is to build trust with the family. She has noticed that most families will stay in the house during the first few visits. They only feel comfortable leaving their child alone with her after they trust her. Therefore, she works hard to create a sense of trust with each family.

Lupe has experienced only a few challenges in providing direct support in families’ homes. Handling challenging behaviors can be difficult since she works with younger children. It has been important to discuss each family’s expectations for handling behaviors early on and to share her management style with the family. Lupe has found this approach to work well and she has experienced only one conflict between a family’s expectations and her own during her seven-year career. 

It is clear that Lupe loves her job. Supporting children and their families gives her great satisfaction and joy. Though it takes patience and caring to be effective, she recommends working as a DSP in families’ homes.

Lupe feels strongly that it is important for the children she supports to have an opportunity to get to know other adults and children outside of their families.