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DSP Ann Marie Walker Speech

Good morning, my name is Ann Marie Walker and I have had the pleasure of working with People lnc. for the past two years. On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I would like to say thank you for your support of our “bFair2DirectCare” campaign in last year’s budget. We hope that you will continue to provide your support in the upcoming state budget.

I want to express that I have worked as a Direct Support Professional for six years and prior to that I was a Business Analyst. I find that my job as a DSP is more meaningful, although the pay is substantial less.

I take great pride and compassion in the services that I provide to my individuals. Their goals become my goals. I treat every individual as just that, an individual. I tailor my approach to their unique needs. I provide encouragement on the areas they are weak, and praise them on their strengths. I expressed to them that is not about adapting to what society wants, but finding ways that they can adapt in society based off of their needs.

Ann Marie Walker with NYS Senator Rob Ortt and Kevin Horrigan, Associate Vice President of Public Affairs at People Inc.

Whether, they reside at home with their families, live in a group home or independently, I encourage them to be more independent at whatever their capacity is and not rely on their caregivers as a crutch. There are some setbacks. Sometimes there are conflicts between what the individual wants as opposed to what the family wants. There are behaviors and/or complete shutdowns. In those times, I stand by them and support them to push through. They know when someone is there versus when they are there for them.

I have experienced some success stories. I have one individual who has cerebral palsy and suffers from social anxiety. She went from looking for me to guide her and holding my hand to leading her own do-it-yourself group activity or DIY which is wonderful program of ours at People Inc.

Another individual was afraid to pay her own bills. Last month she became our own Rep payee and wrote her rent check for the first time.

Both individuals felt a sense of accomplishment and I was honored to share that experience with them.

I have discussed self care with my individuals. I have expressed that they need to take care of themselves before taking care of anyone else. This concept holds true to both caregivers and Direct Support Professionals.

As a Direct Support Professional our own self care is a constant battle. Many of us suffer from economic hardships. Some work 40 hours a week and still need public assistance. Others are homeless and they rely on their families and friends to provide food and shelter. In my case I had to work multiple jobs just to sustain my livelihood. Some seek other jobs opportunities not because they want to but because they have to.

The irony as Direct Support Professionals we encourage our individuals to become and maintain their Independence but sometimes we find ourselves looking for that crutch.

So why do we endure these hardships? It is because of the passion, dedication, and sense of knowing you are making a difference that keeps driven. However, we cannot live off of that drive alone. We need the ongoing support of our state legislature and governor so we can have a living wage, AND more importantly, so we can continue to provide the needed services to the individuals that we so proudly serve.

Thank you.