‘Sidekicks’ kick back

Last week was a time to celebrate at SESDAC, Inc. in Vermillion.

SESDAC, Inc. is a community-based service agency that is committed to providing services and support to assist people with disabilities to live, work and socialize in the community, recognized the important role that its Direct Support Professional (DSP) staff plays in achieving that goal.

The U.S. Senate recently approved a resolution designating the week of Sept. 12 as National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week, and SESDAC, Inc. took part in the national celebration with a variety of activities, ranging from an appreciation tour and a cookout to a mud volleyball tournament.

DSPs are the people who work as direct care workers, in-home support workers, personal assistants and attendants to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live independently in communities of their choosing.

In Vermillion, the DSPs at SESDAC, Inc. enable the local community's most fragile citizens and their families to be an integral part of society by involving them in work and activities that lead to healthy and productive lives. DSPs provide services for 79 people and their families in Vermillion on a daily basis.

Bernie LeCates, human resources director at SESDAC, Inc., said a common trait can be found in every member of the agency's support staff.

"Each one strives to give the people here the support that they need to live as normal of a life as they can," he said. "Some people need 100 percent direct care support, and there are others who need a different level of support – reminding them to do tasks, helping them to make supper, supporting them to do laundry and things like that."

A third level of individuals who receive support from SESDAC, Inc. have the ability to live fairly independent lives. "Yet they still need some support – not necessarily physical support, but more of the emotional type of support, and social support," LeCates said. "The commonality of the job is to support the people we serve, and give the least amount of support that is needed, so they that they can do as much as they can for themselves, and experience different things."

SESDAC, Inc. employs 95 local people as DSPs.

"It's a big chunk of Vermillion," LeCates said.

Approximately half of the people employed as DSPs are university students. The remainder is are traditional types of workers.

The most important trait shared by the DSP's at SESDAC, Inc., he said, is a deep understanding of the needs of their fellow men and women.

"There is such a fine line of someone coming in with a maternal or paternal instinct," LeCates said. "We don't educate the staff to be that way, because we don't necessarily want the people we serve to have another mother or father in their lives; we're looking for someone to be part of a support network for them."

A DSP must be outgoing, and have the ability to make a "human connection" with people who need assistance.

"A DSP plays an important role, because what they do is more than simply a job or a task," he said. "A big part of it is the inclusion they provide to the people we serve – the ability to help them become a part of the community by taking them to different events, or maybe taking them to the movies."

One of the DSPs at SESDAC, Inc. noted, in an essay she wrote about her work, that a good description of her job is "Direct Support Sidekick." It's a term that LeCates finds noteworthy.

"That's when you know that you've hired the right person – when you see that they realize that part of their job is to be a sidekick, a buddy, a friend," LeCates said. "That's how DSPs make the special, needed connection with the people we assist. And in turn, the people they work with gain trust with our DSPs and know that they will be around to help them."

"Direct support professionals provide an invaluable service to the millions of Americans living with disabilities. I'm proud to honor these hard-working individuals who give so much to help those in need. Their dedication to service is an example to us all," said Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) sponsor of Senate Re
solution 558.
SESDAC, Inc. is a community support provider whose mission is to assist people with disabilities to live, work and socialize in their communities. Currently, SESDAC, Inc. has 140 employees that provide a diverse range of services to 78 adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings in Clay and Union counties. The scope of services provided is tailored to an individual's needs and desires, and could include things like residential supports, case management, job development and job coaching, education and advocacy.

Additionally, SESDAC, Inc. has two family support programs that work with 80 children with disabilities and their families throughout 11 counties in southeast South Dakota. SESDAC, Inc. also operates Vermillion Public Transit and provides around 4,500 rides a month to the citizens of Vermillion.
US Senate Resolution 558 and the Governor's Proclamation, may be read on SESDAC, Inc.'s website at www.sesdac.org.

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