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Connecting DSPs Through The ‘Mandatory Fun Series’ Program

Submitted By: Gabi Opazo, The Institutes of Applied Human Dynamics (IAHD)

From March 2021 through June 2021, Erin McSorley, the Director of Adult Day Services for The Institutes of Applied Human Dynamics (IAHD) put together weekly art workshops through the ‘Mandatory Fun Series’ program, at each of the day habilitation sites for direct support professionals (DSPs). The program provided everyone with an opportunity to reconnect and build community after a year of social restriction due to COVID-19.

The workshops created a space where staff could interact outside of “meetings” and relieve their stress through art activities at the end of a workday. It also helped enhance their level of confidence and skills around using different materials, art projects, and techniques in working with people.

Impact Of The Program

The workshops introduced new and interesting activities when options for community involvement were still limited. On an organizational level, the program activities infused us with new life and more creativity, while motivating staff to try out new things. As a result, DSPs became more confident in using different materials and techniques and became less reliant on the “arts coordinator”. Some DSPs built on activities taught in workshops and became really creative (i.e. using sewing machines).

“I sewed a summer dress with Elizabeth!”

Leonides, Direct Support Professional, IAHD

Through the workshops, they inspired and learned from each other – finding new ways to connect with people they supported. The workshops gave DSPs the chance to teach each other what they have learned and take on leadership roles.

Steps To Implement A Similar DSP Program

Organizations could create a program like our ‘Mandatory Fun Series’ by taking the actions listed below.

  1. Organize weekly workshops with a meeting calendar
  2. Distribute information to staff through a “catchy” flyer
  3. Research different art techniques and skills, and acquire materials
  4. Facilitate the group throughout the weekly workshops
  5. Encourage participation, sharing, and discussion
  6. Provide materials to DSPs to replicate activities with people they support
  7. Follow up to build skills and monitor progress
  8. Have tons of fun!

A challenge we encountered involved motivating staff to find time to attend, we found it helpful to at least make the first session mandatory and create an expectation that they participate in future sessions. One additional tip is to reach out to existing staff and see if they might be interested in leading workshops in their area of expertise beyond just art, such as acting, singing, music, meditation, yoga, exercise, dancing, etc.

About IAHD

The Institutes of Applied Human Dynamics (IAHD) was established more than 60 years ago by a small group of families looking for supports for their loved ones. Today, IAHD supports more than 800 people in the Bronx and Westchester County. IAHD’s commitment provides a lifetime of individualized, culturally diverse, flexibly designed supports to address the full range of interests and needs of each person we support. IAHD is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit committed to providing supports to people throughout their lives, to assist them in community living, achievement of growth potential – to live a life fulfilled.

2021 National DSP Recognition Week

For 2021 National DSP Recognition Week, CQL and NADSP are sharing specific organization-wide initiatives that lift up and bolster direct support professionals (DSPs) throughout the entire year. These include significant, long-lasting, and meaningful actions that have far-reaching effects on DSPs. By sharing these initiatives, other human service providers can both learn about and replicate these efforts to build up the DSP workforce. This is also an opportunity to highlight the programs your organization has developed to strengthen DSPs.

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.