Alyssa Richardson began her career with the Agency at the Children’s Learning Center.
Since, she has worked for several of the residences as a Direct Support Professional, including Hinsdale, Fall Road, Buffalo Road, Five Mile, and now at Prospect Avenue where she’s worked since December, 2015. She is now med certified and working on a degree in nursing.
While today, her gentle nature reflects an inner calm and commitment to the people she supports, it wasn’t always that easy for her.
“When I first started, I was terrified. I didn’t know if I could do this,” she said, “but after meeting the folks, I decided I could do it. Now, I do whatever I can and for whomever.”
As for other DSPs, listening for cues from those who are non-verbal is important to knowing what they need and how she can respond to those needs.
“It’s hard not to get emotionally attached,” she said, adding she has moved from one end of the care spectrum to the other. Her work as a DSP at Fall Road where the residents’ needs are primarily physical to Prospect Avenue where they have higher behavioral health needs.
“At Prospect we offer emotional support to people with behavioral health needs,” she said, sharing that one of the residents is often fearful and needs reassurance he is safe.
“Almost daily, one of our residents who has been diagnosed schizophrenic will ask if the voices he hears are real. I assure him they are not and that he is safe,” she said, compassionately. “I can’t imagine what that must be like for him. But, he feels safe in his room. After I assure him, he’s safe, he’ll go in his room and lie down. He knows no one will go in his room. It’s his safe place.”
Currently, her class schedule includes a unit on psychology, which is helpful in her work at Prospect.
“It’s incredible the power your mind has on your body,” she said. “Everybody needs the reassurance that they’re doing ok. Hearing you’re doing a good job can totally change everyone’s day. It’s a big relief for them.”
For Alyssa, it’s a good feeling to know that something as little as offering the reassurance that no one is going to hurt her resident means so much and makes such a big difference to him.
“We can’t stop the voices he hears, but we can help him feel safe and that makes him happy. He’s doing really well now,” she said, adding, “We all need confidence boosting.”
When someone comes to her with an emotional issue or concern, she invites that person to “talk about it,” for 5 to 10 minutes.
“That’s usually all they need – is to be heard and to talk about what’s on their mind,” she said.
In addition to reassuring residents of their safety in the house, she encourages them to self-advocate for themselves and take responsibility for their needs. By empowering them to self-advocate she helps them reduce their own feelings of vulnerability.
“By self-advocating, it’s on him to take responsibility for himself,” she said, adding by speaking up, a need is met which is emotionally empowering and healing.