Being a direct support professional (DSP) is hard work; there’s no way around it. Becky Lambert, a direct support manager (DSM) at Champaign Residential Services Inc (CRSI) since 2020, has experienced and endured the hard work that comes with the profession. Before becoming a DSM, Lambert was a DSP elsewhere for six years. In that time, the good days have significantly outweighed the bad.
“I’ve had some really bad days and I can tell you, my good days and rewards have overpowered them,” said Lambert. “On my behalf, I don’t call it hard work because I love what I do.”
The primary role of a DSP is a caregiver, but the job is much more than that. The position is meant to help develop a successful, independent life for people with developmental disabilities. Lambert has been successful both as a caregiver and in helping people with disabilities grow.
When Lambert first started supporting John, or Jay as he likes to be called, he did not use traditional speech patterns to communicate what he wanted or needed. Instead of deciding that she would have to communicate for him, Lambert saw this as an opportunity to help Jay learn new new ways to express what he needed for others to better understand. She started centering all their interactions around learning and teaching no matter the scenario. To teach different ways to communicate, Lambert used Jay’s instinctual pointing as a teaching mechanism, responding to those points by asking a question to better understand what he wanted. Every time Jay would point at items or actions, she would repeat the word or words describing the item or action in question form, “This is an apple. Is that what you want? Apple.” Months into the process, Jay was taking these words and concepts in stride.
“He tells me so many different words that he’s never said before,” said Lambert. “He knows so much now it’s amazing. He’s amazing.”
The ability to verbalize what someone wants is often taken for granted. In the world of a person with a developmental disability, learning how to communicate is a step toward independence. The work of a DSP can change the lives of these people, but what it has personally done for Lambert is unmatched.
Before becoming a DSP, Lambert was a factory manager, far from considering a caregiver profession. However, when her grandmother fell ill and needed someone to care for her, Lambert felt called upon. After making a full recovery, Lambert’s grandmother encouraged her to pursue caregiving as a career. This encouragement led to Lambert leaving her factory position in 2014 to become a DSP. She hasn’t looked back since.
Although the work of a DSP isn’t for everyone, the rewarding nature of the job is indescribable. For those considering the career, Lambert encourages them to speak with a DSP that has been in the field for a year or more.
“Teaching those personal abilities and experiences helps them (people with developmental disabilities) enjoy life like I do,” said Lambert. “It’s about respect and building those relationships that will pull you through.”
For job openings, visit https://careers.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/careers/ and search DSP.