Five Traits of a Disability Support Worker

23 Oct 2015 6:42 AMDPT DPT

DPT trainer, Raylee Gormley, is our guest blogger this week and she gives her lowdown on what it takes to be a DSW.

1. VERSATILITY ~ You need to be able to drive your client safely in your car, be able to sing the words to their favourite song (while it blasts away at full volume from your radio), tell them to keep their seat belt on. THEN you may have to suggest another activity when you DON'T find that Terradactyl that someone told them was laying eggs on the beach!

2. CREATIVITY~ Our Disability clients often have a mental list of all the things they need to do that day. Sometimes these plans fall through. So the DSW needs to be able to make suggestions that allow the clients to build skills and encourage the clients to exert their independence. Plus is an activity ok to share with their family and is it fun? This means the worker must maintain their own levels of motivation, energy and enthusiasm for an eight hour shift.

3. PERSONALITY~ You won’t engage your client in community life unless you have personality. You may have to engage yourself in the activity first. You have to show the same amount of enthusiasm for making their bed that you expect your clients to display. You have to save some of your energy to hunt for that Terradactyl on the beach for two hours before admitting it MAY have flown away to Tasmania. I once sat through the movie ‘Rugrats in Paris’ – TWICE in one day! But both clients deserved the same level of enthusiasm and display of enjoyment from me while watching that movie with them. (And it’s SO hard not to spoil the ending!)

4. EMPOWERMENT~ Lots of people think they empower their Disability clients by LISTENING to them, by giving CHOICES. What we really need to think about though is: are they choices the client would have chosen themselves? Am I actually acting on what I’m hearing or just LISTENING to their desires. True empowerment comes from allowing your client the dignity of taking some risk in life – just as people who don’t have a disability do. I call information ‘a powerful tool’, so it figures that if we give our clients information we are empowering them. However, how many people MODIFY the information they’re imparting – thinking along a ‘need to know basis’. For clients to be truly empowered, they must be given all the information – even the bits you think they may not want to know, or not thank you for. This is a learned skill for the DSW!

5. MAINTAINING A POSITIVE IMAGE ~ I’m thinking here of Social Role Valorisation. This means giving clients the opportunity to have valued roles – to be seen as having more value. Think: Feeding the ducks Vs doing Volunteer work or spending time with paid workers Vs spending time with friends. Which person would be seen to have more value to society? This is not always a black or white situation – there are degrees of grey.

Raylee Gormley has been a DSW for 8 years. She became the manager of 5 fully-supported group homes supporting a variety of people with disabilities. She then specialised in behaviour management in the area of mental health. She especially loved the interactions & relationships she developed with her clients - being invited to dinner & special events, and having clients drop into the office whenever they wanted - often bringing a muffin with them. lol!


Courses with Raylee are Aged Care & Home Care course - starts 16th November at Maroochydore and Cert 4 Disability

Gold Coast Aged Care & Home Care course - starts 9th November at Burleigh Waters

ENQUIRE HERE or phone 1300 130 487

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